Want to be a good reporter? Follow these tips.

Anastasya Lloyd-Damnjanovic does a preliminary edit of an article. (Lilia Xie)

When Anastasya Lloyd-Damnjanovic first joined the Daily Princetonian, she thought of the university newspaper as a hobby secondary to her academic work. But as she rose through the reporting ranks to become news editor, she received a practical education more intensive than she ever could have imagined. Here are some of the things she learned to do:

Make a pitch. Propose a story and offer a short list of appropriate sources and an explanation of the story’s timeliness or relevance.My first stories as a staff writer were assigned to me by editors. But as I gained experience, I pitched my own ideas,” she says.

Disclose conflicts of interest. A potential conflict of interest is a reporter’s affiliation with the subject matter, source or media outlet. “Occasionally, I or another reporter got too close to our sources,” she explains. “At those times, editors found another reporter to interview the sources” or disclosed their conflicts of interest.

Get both sides. Reporters should seek a response from the people or institutions involved, especially if the coverage is negative.

Follow interview ground rules. “On the record” means anything a source tells a reporter can be fully reported and attributed. “On background” means a reporter can use the information a source tells him or her but cannot include the source’s name. “Off the record” means a reporter cannot publish the information at all, but can use it to enhance his or her contextual knowledge. Journalists should strive for on-the-record interviews and then confirm information with additional sources.

Trying to get an interview, reporters swarm former Ford CEO Alan Mulally. (Thomas Hawk/Flickr)

Correct mistakes. When the Daily Princetonian makes a mistake, it publishes a correction in both its print and online versions and offers an apology. “Admitting mistakes is crucial to gaining readers’ trust,” she says.

A free press plays a crucial role in making complex issues intelligible to the average citizen. To learn more about the standards U.S. journalists strive to achieve, see the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.