How To Get the True Story Without Burning Your Sources

Question: How do you maintain your journalistic integrity without burning so many bridges that you can’t get the story?

Matt Taibbi: That is problem that every journalist has to worry about.  I think in my case I have a little bit of a luxury that other journalists don’t have, which is that I'm not covering the same people over and over and over again.  If I want to, I can cover a story and move onto a completely different topic afterwards and never have to deal with any of those people again. So I can actually do that scorch and burn thing where I descend on a whole bunch of people and write whatever I want about them, and if it’s not flattering I don’t ever have to talk to them again.  

That is not the situation that some journalists are in.  If you’re covering the White House for the Washington Post, well you have to nurture those relationships and you can’t burn people all the time. So I venture a little bit more in the direction of just saying what I think is appropriate and letting the chips fall where they may, but at the same time you have to be fair to your sources, otherwise no one will ever talk to you.  If you get a reputation of somebody who violates off-the-record privileges for instance no one is going to talk to you, so I work hard to be honest with my sources, but I don’t go out of my way to make them feel good either.

Recorded on November 22, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont
Directed by Jonathan Fowler
Produced by Elizabeth Rodd

"I work hard to be honest with my sources, but I don’t go out of my way to make them feel good either," says Taibbi.

Vaping changes blood vessels after one use, even without nicotine

E-cigarettes may be safer than traditional cigarettes, but they come with their own risks.


John Keeble
/GETTY
Surprising Science
  • A new study used an MRI machine to examine how vaping e-cigarettes affects users' cardiovascular systems immediately after inhalation.
  • The results showed that vaping causes impaired circulation, stiffer arteries and less oxygen in their blood.
  • The new study adds to a growing body of research showing that e-cigarettes – while likely safer than traditional cigarettes – are far from harmless.
Keep reading Show less

First solar roadway in France turned out to be a 'total disaster'

French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.

Image source: Charly Triballeau / AFP / Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • The French government initially invested in a rural solar roadway in 2016.
  • French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
  • Solar panel "paved" roadways are proving to be inefficient and too expensive.
Keep reading Show less

America’s education system is centuries old. Can we build something better?

The Lumina Foundation lays out steps for increasing access to quality post-secondary education credentials.

Sponsored by Lumina Foundation
  • America's post-high school education landscape was not created with the modern student in mind. Today, clear and flexible pathways are necessary to help individuals access education that can help them lead a better life.
  • Elizabeth Garlow explains the Lumina Foundation's strategy to create a post-secondary education system that works for all students. This includes credential recognition, affordability, a more competency-based system, and quality assurance.
  • Systemic historic factors have contributed to inequality in the education system. Lumina aims to close those gaps in educational attainment.
  • In 2019, Lumina Foundation and Big Think teamed up to create the Lumina Prize, a search to find the most innovative and scalable ideas in post-secondary education. You can see the winners of the Lumina Prize here – congratulations to PeerForward and Greater Commons!