Straight from the Source

As a report is released in the UK today citing the protection of whistle blowers and sources as a priority, it is always important to distinguish which sources are considered reliable. Credibility within the news and journalism cycle is always paramount. If you do not get a reliable source when writing or broadcasting a piece then you run the risk of being disciplined, fired or even sued. The question always is, what makes a source credible?

When you open up a celebrity gossip magazine, these sorts of terms are thrown around; “A source close to the star…”, “An unnamed source claims…“. These phrases seem to be placed high up within a story, especially if you are unable get a direct quote from the star in question. When reading these articles, I always find myself asking: what makes the source credible? If it says a source close to the star, what does that mean? A friend? A personal assistant? Credibility is always a grey area within journalism as the boom of internet information means that some sources could not be credible. It is important to consider the criteria of what makes a source credible.

There seems to be a mix of personal requirements and academic application to how a source is perceived as credible. If there is a direct quote from a source then the criteria seems to state that one must review this individual’s personal information. What is their standing in the community? What is their status? How is their status relevant to the article or news story? Obviously there are always competitive elements within journalism meaning that some writers could become desperate for quotes or information, often turning to the internet for answers. However, there is a danger with that as well. Information sites on the internet such as Wikipedia have received criticism for their unreliable information. As pages are posted and modified by members of the public, it can often spell out incredibility for those who chose to use them as a source of information. I would recommend cross-checking them with other websites.

Another requirement for a source is if the information can be checked across multiple sources. If there is only one person who can comment about the claims within a piece, then maybe pro-cautions should be made so that it can be checked at a later date. Obviously, the information is still relevant but if it can be backed from other source then it improves its strength as a reliable piece of information.

Lastly, the criteria for reliable source is a simple one yet dependent on interpretation. Is the source known as an honest person? It may be over-simplifying but if the reputation of a source is not good then maybe another source would be more desirable. In a twitter row recently, British rapper MC Harvey claimed to have been involved in a romantic relationship with former X-Factor judge, Cheryl Cole, a story which he reported to a national magazine. The twitter row escalated when Cole assertively denied any involvement with Harvey and has reportedly been consulting with lawyers over the claims. Now Harvey has backtracked, admitted that there was no romantic involvement. Looking back at the rapper’s past, credibility is questionable as he has been claimed to have cheated on his former wife. Not suggesting that all sources with a history of infidelity are unreliable but it is something to consider. As a personal example, I recently conducted an interview with a woman for my community article. The article was about changes to the UK Licensing Laws and their implications on “sex establishments”, such as pole-dancing and lap-dancing clubs. I contacted a woman who worked in one of these establishments and she granted me an interview, on the condition that her name be withheld in the article. After an hour with her, I came home to write-up my notes and I rang up the club to cross-check several claims she had made. After talking with the floor manager, I discovered that she had not worked in the club for almost a year and that she had a background of lying about her occupation. I managed to get another interview with someone else who worked in the club but the former interview was a waste of time. All because I didn’t check how reliable a source she was.

It is often difficult to decipher credible information, especially when you have a deadline. However, there are rules and regulations on how the sources can be trusted. Just looking at the type of information and personal reputation of sources is key before printing any news story or article. I have written posts which discuss the spread of misinformation around the internet and it is important to take the time to make sure that you have reliable sources. Following the rules means that you can write a professional, news-worthy piece to be proud of and you can rest assured that you have made a truthful and reliable piece.

5 Comments to “Straight from the Source”

  1. Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic article post.Thanks Again.

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