Content Standards: How to properly source breaking news reports
First of a 10-part series explaining Bleacher Report’s Content Standards policies in depth.
How To Properly Source Breaking News Reports
Properly crediting breaking news reports may seem like a simple task, but writers should not take it for granted.
Since Bleacher Report isn’t in the business of breaking its own news, all B/R writers should take note of these guidelines when analyzing and writing about a recent scoop:
- Identify the original source of the news (ex: Adam Schefter of ESPN).
- Make sure the original source is both named (in other words, not from a personal or anonymous source) and credible (check out this post for a primer on verifying sources).
- Credit the original source by name in your article.
- Hyperlink the original source into a group of words, preferably within the phrase that introduces your source.
Example: According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Denver Broncos and New York Jets have finally reached an agreement to send Tim Tebow to the Big Apple.
Check out B/R’s Attribution Guidelines for more on how to do steps three and four.
- If you initially found the report somewhere other than the original source, credit that secondary source via a hat tip and a hyperlink (more on this below).
- Stick to the available facts. Don’t make assumptions or jump to conclusions, and always use extreme caution until the breaking news is 100 percent confirmed. If anything gives you pause, it’s probably wise to take a “wait and see” approach.
Sourcing Reports Originating on Twitter
Sports reporters usually break news on Twitter before following up with full articles. When referencing tweeted breaking news, give proper credit by linking to that specific tweet, not just to the person’s general Twitter account. (How to link directly to a tweet.)
Citing Sources Behind “Pay Walls” and TV or Radio Reports
Writers are allowed to source information behind “pay walls” as long as it is properly cited and hyperlinked. Examples of such websites include ESPN Insider, scout.com, rivals.com and Pro Football Focus, where writers need to pay a fee to access all the information (the information may appear in a truncated fashion, like so). A citation is especially necessary, as not all contributors will have access to specific sections of these websites.
TV and radio reports must be hyperlinked to online video clips and podcasts if possible. If that task cannot be achieved, written citations alone suffice in this case.
What If You Can’t Link to the First-Hand Source?
For whatever reason, it may not always be possible to gain direct access to a report, even a shortened version of a report behind a pay wall.
In these cases, linking to a second-hand report is the best option. How do we credit both? The use of a hat tip (indicated by “h/t” or “via”) for your second source does the trick. Simply cite both the first- and second-hand sources while linking to the latter.
Example: According to Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer (h/t sescoops.com), Brock Lesnar was in talks with WWE for a month prior to signing a one-year contract.
The Breaking News Period
All officially confirmed, credible reports must be sourced and hyperlinked until we can reasonably consider the news to be common knowledge. To keep things simple and consistent, B/R requires its writers to cite and link to all news reports less than 24 hours old.
This ensures that the original source receives proper credit for the scoop, and also provides your readers with easy access to additional information should they desire it.
Why You Can’t Break Your Own News on B/R
B/R has a strict policy against writers breaking their own news. While we don’t doubt that some B/R writers have contacts they know and trust, a problem arises when we’re asked to take a leap of faith that those sources are both legitimate and accurate.
Since B/R’s entire newsroom is virtual and worldwide, we simply don’t have the resources to verify who knows whom. While this is subject to change in the future, for now it’s a blanket policy.
The Take-Home Note
Always have the mindset to give credit where it’s due.
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Paul Kasabian is Bleacher Report’s Content Moderation Coordinator. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.