What Is Most Practical Way To Identify Story Sources?
While analyzing articles for my current e-news delivery study, I found that many B2B posts rarely identify story sources properly. This prompted a memory of how a prominent consumer publication treats identification of sources. Its written policy advises authors to include at least one reference per article indicating that a personal exchange occurred between editor and source. Those of you seeking a similar improvement should consider BuzzFeed’s approach as described in the “Attribution” section of its News Standards and Ethics Guide:
All quotes are to be attributed. Quotes that have been given directly to a BuzzFeed News staffer should be noted as such by using the words “told BuzzFeed News” (or in some cases, “BuzzFeed Health” or “BuzzFeed Reader”) at least once in the story.
As for press releases, BuzzFeed says:
Reporters may quote from press releases and should make the source clear — “said in a press release.” With that said: Interviews are always better.
When it comes to identifying press release sources, more e-news sections are being devoted to press-release pick-ups and identified as such. This practice never ceases to bother me. Instead, I prefer that e-news writers source at least one comment going beyond submitted content.
Another approach to sourcing was described by Deborah Lockridge, editor-in-chief of Heavy Duty Trucking. This Neal Award winner recently reported that her publication pays more attention to whether a quoted source “was from a press release, in an interview, or in a virtual event for trucking reporters.” When asked for further comment, Lockridge replied:
We don’t always indicate that something was said in a release if it’s a run-of-the mill announcement. But in cases where we are blending comments from releases and from interview or live events, we do try to make those distinctions.
I think more clarity is always better where the reader is concerned. I believe it also helps set us apart from the competition when we can make clear that this isn’t essentially the same thing everyone else is running.
The matter of opponents running “the same thing everyone else is” can prove to be haunting. My competitive analysis e-news reports always include “like-item analysis comparison.” To someone’s dismay, it often occurs that you and the opposition are using the same story angles or repeating the same quotes provided in a PR announcement.