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What Is an inside Story?

By Laura Metz
Updated May 23, 2024
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The phrase “inside story” is an English idiom used widely to refer to information gained by firsthand experience. Similar phrases include “primary source,” “inside scoop,” and “straight from the horse’s mouth.” This idiom is used frequently in the titles of various news stories and documentaries, as well as other movies, books, and music albums.

When a specific subject is explained or described by someone directly involved in it, it is the inside story. For example, after a hostage situation, hostages, suspects, and members of the police who were present could all give interviews telling the inside story because they were all there, behind the scenes, able to see and accurately describe what happened. On the other hand, a man on the street or a criminal psychologist would only be able to give commentary on the subject, instead of personal experience.

Journalists and academics tend to seek the inside story, seeking to find a primary source of information to give facts. A primary source can be a witness, the writings of a witness, or even an artifact from the event in question. Primary sources are far more reliable than secondary sources, or commentary concerning any given event. Even less reliable are tertiary sources, which are collections of information, such as anthologies and encyclopedias.

Phrases such as “inside scoop” and “first hand” are occasionally used in place of inside story. A first hand experience is one in which the speaker was present and directly involved in the experience. In other words, the information has not passed through any intermediate people or hands. A similar saying is “straight from the horse’s mouth.” This saying may have originated with racing bets, when the best tips came from those closest to the horse, or from horse buyers, who look inside a horse’s mouth to best estimate a horse’s age and condition.

News agencies and movie studios use the phrase inside story frequently. It is the title of a Filipino news program which aired from 1990-1998 as well as one in Qatar begun in 2011. Documentaries concerning the making of successful movies and cult classics often use the phrase as a subtitle. These “inside stories” feature interviews of the actors, screenwriters, producers, and directors involved in making the movie.

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Discussion Comments
By ZipLine — On Apr 19, 2014

Usually people willingly share their experiences with a journalist. But there are also cases where the inside scoop is attained in not so ethical ways. For example, what if a journalist pretends to be someone else and dupes the person into telling something that they wouldn't otherwise? And what if that information is published without that person's consent?

I also sometimes feel that "inside stories" are made up or are pure gossip, for example, in celebrity news. I even think that some journalists have personal enmities with certain people for whatever reason and sometimes spread gossip about them under the label "inside story."

So I think that as the public, we need to be aware of these issues and realize that an inside story is not necessarily the truth.

By stoneMason — On Apr 19, 2014

@donasmrs-- Some people only share information about an issue on the condition that they remain anonymous. This is an option that many writers and reporters will give to their informants. The reason is because the information is probably about someone close to the informant, perhaps a friend, a boss or an acquaintance. And people do not want to face negative consequences because they shared information. In a way, anonymity gives the person protection and he or she could always deny having anything to do with the inside story if they are asked.

If it weren't for anonymity, I think that many inside stories would remain incomplete. So sometimes a reporter or writer has no choice but to do this. I agree with you that it can sometimes raise question marks in the readers' mind about the authenticity of the story. But there isn't much that can be done about that.

By donasmrs — On Apr 19, 2014

Why do people who reveal information for an inside story sometimes require that their name not be mentioned? Doesn't this make a story less believable?

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