25 Years of Sources
July 2, 2002
With this issue - Number 50 - Sources proudly
celebrates its 25th anniversary.
The idea that became Sources grew out of Content
magazine, a journalism review published in the 1970s by journalist
and media critic Barrie Zwicker. A concern regularly raised in Content
was the narrow range of sources on which journalists all too often
rely, resulting, according to Zwicker, in a "terrible sameness"
in the media's coverage of many important issues, and a shutting
out of other, potentially valuable, perspectives and sources of
An entrepreneur as well as a critic, Zwicker decided to do something
about the problem, and so, in the Summer of 1977, Content
published its first directory issue, called Sources.
Billed as "A Directory of Contacts for Editors and Reporters
in Canada", Sources listed "information
officers, public relations officers, media relations and public
affairs people, and other contacts for groups, associations, federations,
unions, societies, institutions, foundations, industries and companies
and federal, provincial and municipal ministries, departments, agencies
Explaining the purpose of Sources, Zwicker said that
"It's a cliché that every story has two sides. An untrue
cliché. Most have several. The reporter's challenge is digging
out all sides. Sources can help."
From the beginning, Zwicker saw Sources as a public
service as well as a tool for journalists. Instead of charging everyone
the same fee (Sources is delivered free to journalists
who request it, but there is a fee for being listed), he instituted
a novel sliding scale of fees based on an organization's revenue
or operating budget. This formula, still in use today, makes it
possible for smaller organizations with modest budgets to be included,
and thereby helps to ensure that a larger number, and a greater
diversity, of contacts and experts, are able to appear in Sources.
In keeping with this vision, Sources went on to develop
other specialized information resources, including Embassy
Row, listing all foreign countries' diplomatic representatives
to Canada, and Fame
and Fortune, a comprehensive listing of awards for writers
and journalists. Parliamentary
Names & Numbers, a directory of Canada's federal
and provincial governments, began as a supplement to Sources,
but by 1994 had grown so much that it became 200-page stand-alone
Names & Numbers, a directory of all of Canada's print
and broadcast media, launched in 2000, also as a stand-alone directory.
In keeping with its mandate of providing journalists "the user-friendliest
access to the widest possible range of sources on the maximum numbers
of topics", Sources moved early to provide computer-based
access to its information. The Sources Web site launched
in 1996, early enough that Sources was able to lock up the prime
Internet domain name sources.com. The Sources site
at www.sources.com now records some 13,000 distinct users
a month - mirroring the number of journalists and public relations
professionals who receive the print edition.
Ulli Diemer, who has managed Sources since 1995, first
as general manager, and, since 1999, as publisher, says that he
is pleased and "a bit amazed" that the service is celebrating
its twenty-fifth anniversary. The Sources staff, he
notes, take particular pride in the fact that of the 203 organizations
and companies listed in the very first issue of Sources
in 1977, 47 are still listed today. The number of organizations
signed up for the service, and the high renewal rate, as well as
the continuing high usage of both the print and Internet versions
of Sources, are good news, says Diemer. "It shows
that we're providing a useful service." And it's going to get
better, he says, with enhancements and new features planning for
the Sources Web site this summer and fall.
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