The 10 most common Content Standards violations, and how to avoid them
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on March 9, 2015.
It can be a daunting task for Bleacher Report contributors to sift through and understand everything in the B/R Content Standards. Last year this blog ran a 10-part series illuminating them, but while that series can be a useful reference work, it’s also a lot to assimilate.
So today we’re distilling all of it into a single blog post that, while not comprehensive, should give you a solid, basic understanding of the most important Content Standards.
What follows are the 10 most common Content Standards violations, in order of frequency, with brief explanatory notes and links for further reading. If you can stay away from these 10 problems, you’ll be well on your way to success as a Bleacher Report writer.
1. Unsourced Breaking News
Breaking news reports, meaning all news reports that broke within the past 24 hours of your article’s publication, must be hyperlinked to the original source, with the author (if applicable) and source named in the text. The source must be a credible media outlet or official release.
2. Unsourced Allegation/Rumors
All unconfirmed reports (rumors) and allegations—regardless of time frame—must be hyperlinked and cited to the original source, with the author (if applicable) and source named in the text. The source must be a credible outlet.
3. Unsourced Quotation/Paraphrase
All direct quotations must be hyperlinked to an original and credible source, with the author (if applicable) and source named in the text. All paraphrases (indirect quotations) must be hyperlinked at minimum. However, quoting the Content Standards blog post series, “If you’re reporting paraphrases that reference breaking news, rumors or exclusive content (a writer’s personal opinion, a one-on-one interview, specific statistical analysis, etc.), you need a hyperlink and citation.”
Firsthand access to quotes or paraphrases must be noted either via an Author’s Note at the bottom of an article or a mention within the article text (e.g. “as told to Bleacher Report”). The sourcing of quotes and paraphrases obtained from TV or radio must be made clear.
4. Miscellaneous Sourcing Errors
Basic box-score stats do not require sourcing, but advanced stats must be credited and linked to the original source. If you calculate advanced stats on your own, indicate so via an in-text citation or article tagline.
If your source is behind a pay wall, cite and hyperlink as usual.
Whenever in doubt, always err on the side of sourcing for any information you obtain from other media outlets. Examples include recruiting/scouting reports, combine statistics, salary-cap information, proprietary criticism, character-damaging and/or sensitive information (old arrests, affairs, college sports scandals, PED allegations, etc.) and obscure factual information.
5. Excess of Textual/Style Errors
Spelling, grammar, punctuation and factual errors are easily avoidable. Proofread carefully prior to publication, pay attention to feedback from copy editors and take advantage of the many writing resources B/R has to offer: our Engagement Guide, our Stylebook and the B/R Blog.
The Stylebook outlines some of B/R’s unique style preferences, particularly when it comes to sport-specific terminology. If you ever have trouble finding a specific word or phrase, deferring to AP style is the safest bet.
6. Unsupported Opinion/Blurb or Truncated Submission
Every argument must be well-argued, plausible and factually sound.
Articles covering immediate breaking news reports must be longer than 250 words.
All other pieces should be relative to the depth and breadth of the subject matter. A good minimum mark is 500 words.
Must-Have Information: A word counter, such as Microsoft Word or http://www.wordcounter.net/, should be used to ensure the minimum word count has been reached.
7. Offensive Content
Update: Bleacher Report’s policy on profanity has changed since this post was published. Please see the post Important changes to Content Standards on profanity, gambling, attribution for the current policy.
If you’re thinking of using profanity in an article—don’t.
If profanity appears in quoted material relevant to your article, it’s OK to use as long as it’s censored. If, on the other hand, profanity IS the story—think Kobe Bryant—it’s OK to include it uncensored in the body of the article.
If you find yourself writing about a sensitive or controversial topic, it’s always a good idea to have someone else look it over prior to publication. Your editor has a great set of eyes, and we’re always willing to give your work a read.
8. Non-Original Content/Plagiarism
All submissions must have at least 75 percent “original content,” defined as the writer’s own words OR quotes/paraphrases obtained firsthand.
Writers are NOT allowed to reproduce old B/R content and republish it as new. Writers ARE allowed to use material from old B/R articles in new submissions, but the content must be (a) quoted and (b) used in moderation.
Any passages or ideas from other sources must be properly cited and hyperlinked. Failure to do so may result in a B/R account removal. ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK to make sure you have not accidentally plagiarized someone else’s work.
Live by Lennay’s Law: ”Tell us what you know is true, and tell us how you know it.”
9. Excessive Self-Promotion
B/R writers are encouraged to promote themselves and their work in italicized paragraph form at the end of a submission, though self-promotion may not be done in a standalone slide at the end of a slideshow.
Self-promotional blurbs should be 140 characters or less, and should serve one or more of the following:
(a) Identify the author as having obtained information firsthand, such as quotes at a press conference
(b) Encourage readers to follow the author on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
(c) Establish the author’s credentials as an authority on the article’s topic
It is acceptable to cite and link to your previous work in-text if it’s directly relevant to the subject matter of the article and done in moderation.
10. Misleading Headlines
Headlines must accurately represent the content they promote.
All articles featuring the word “rumors” in the headline must report actual reported rumors and not personal speculation. All articles featuring the term “power rankings” in the headline must rank all the teams in a conference or league.
Must-Read Information: B/R Blog Resources for Headline Writing
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Paul Kasabian is Bleacher Report’s Content Moderation Coordinator. He can be reached at email@example.com.