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News Release

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 information.

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 and boards."

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 directory. Media 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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