Source Remorse

Melissa Stagnaro

We’re all familiar with buyer’s remorse, where shortly after making a major purchase decision you’re overwhelmed with regret. It was too much money, not exactly what you were looking for, you should have spent the money on something else – the reasons for second-guessing the decision are endless.

As are the feelings of deep, unadulterated guilt associated with it.

Now in my line of work, we sometimes run into a different variety of this same malady. I call it “source remorse.” This occurs when someone you’ve interviewed about an issue or event has second thoughts about what they said and are fully aware that they can – and probably will – be quoted on it.

Those suffering from an attack of source remorse usually might place a frantic phone call to the person they spilled their guts to begging them not to use those comments. On the rare occasion that may even work, but not likely, and particularly not if the story has already gone to print.

Maybe the remorseful source will call someone else they think will have a sympathetic ear to their plight. Or perhaps they go the denial route, claiming they didn’t know they were talking on the record.

That last excuse might even work for the higher-ups, but really folks, lets be realistic. If a reporter calls you and tells you they are writing an article about x and then start asking you questions about said topic, it’s probably safe to assume it’s not a social call. It’s a fair bet their inquiries are aimed at getting details for publication unless otherwise specified.

While I can sympathize with someone for feeling a little regret or trepidation after they’ve shared what they think may have been a little too much, its a little bit of a rush, too. A guilty pleasure, if you will, to know that you’ve been able to get someone to open up about something to that extent. After all, it’s kind of the name of the game in this business.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to alienate any sources. But as far as I know, there’s no such thing as “scoop” remorse.

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