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3 tips for cultivating sources, from CBS correspondent Nikole Killion

The National Press Club Journalism Institute shares journalism training tips with the Global Business Journalism program at Tsinghua University. These tips come from Nikole Killion of CBS News.
Nikole Killion offers advice to emerging journalists hoping to break into political reporting. (GBJ program screenshot)

The Global Business Journalism program is pleased to share professional journalist tips from the National Press Club Journalism Institute. We are thankful to NPCJI executive director Beth Francesco for her kind permission to excert this from the National Press Club Journalism Institute's newsletter, "The Latest."


In this tipsheet, CBS News congressional correspondent Nikole Killion shares her three top tips for cultivating sources.

Face time

Nothing beats face-to-face contact. It was very tough during COVID to build contacts because everything was virtual by email, phone, or Zoom. It kinda felt like online dating. But grabbing a coffee or lunch, chatting in the hall, or stopping by an office to say hi can go a long way toward establishing and sustaining sources in the future.

Follow up

When you meet a new source or contact, follow up. Don’t just set their card down or add them as another contact in your phone. Email, call, or text back to tell them it was nice to meet them. Set up a chat or coffee. Always be responsive so they know you’re someone who will take their tips and pitches seriously.


Be kind and respectful. Decorum still matters on Capitol Hill, particularly when dealing with members of Congress. We all want answers but there’s no need to be overly pushy. Thanking members or their staff for taking the time to stop or facilitate an interview will help you get the next one!


Watch Nikole Killion's report on Lisa Blunt Rochester's bid to becoming the first Black person and the first woman to represent President Joe Biden's home state of Delaware in the United States Senate.

More tips from Nikole Killion

Q: What questions do you ask to get beyond a politician’s spin?

Killion: Be prepared and cut to the chase (pun intended). I try to keep it simple and think of what the average person sitting at home would ask or want to know. Asking direct questions can often elicit a direct response.

For instance, during the protracted Speaker battle this fall, I asked former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy if the Republican conference was broken. He replied, “We’re in a very bad place now, yes.” The clip went viral and got more than a million views. While that was not my intent, it spoke to the vulnerability of the moment.

Q: What advice do you have for young journalists?

Killion: Be a voracious consumer of information. Yes, we’re in the business of delivering news but make sure you’re always on top of the latest headlines. There are so many outlets and platforms covering the Hill so keep up with your colleagues. Sometimes the smallest nuggets of news can turn into a huge story! And if you really want that “scoop”, know the players!


"The Latest" newsletter is written and edited by the National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Bara Vaida, and Holly Butcher Grant. Send your questions and suggestions for topics to cover. We recommend that you subscribe. You also can view the archives of "The Latest."

That National Press Club Journalism Institute and the Global Business Journalism program are teaming up to offer journalism tips.


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