There were no computers in my college journalism class. We used typewriters.
We pulled copy off the Associated Press wire. We actually tore paper off a continuously clickity-clacking Associated Press machine that spewed news from around the world into our classroom.
No Internet. No e-mail. No fax machines. I wrote and still write original content. What a concept.
Going to the Source For the Story
As a news and sports journalist, I covered newsworthy events and asked reliable sources for information about what happened. I had to cross-check facts, responses and quotes with official sources to ascertain truthfulness and reliability.
I went to police stations and checked the blotters. To politicians’ offices to wait for interviews. The court house to file Freedom of Information Act requests for documents. The library, city, state, national records offices to obtain legal documents. Information was recorded on paper. There was no other way.
Then, I’d write my story for the newspaper.
A Fair and Balanced Story Starts With the Source
A news desk would check my facts, my quotes. They sometimes called to assure names, spellings were correct, quotes were accurate. Then the copy was thoroughly copy edited for grammar, punctuation, story flow, BALANCE. Then it was published.
Use a Variety of Sources
This process hasn’t changed. If I want to know more or there is information relayed, I call a variety of sources to have conversations with people. I want to be sure that what is going into print is true, accurate and balanced.
I used a range of sources to balance the story. I check facts in books, not online. I use style guides, dictionaries, a thesaurus, the world almanac. If I doubt a fact, I research.
Try it. It works.
Check Your Sources
Today, everyone is an author of something. But where does their content come from? What’s the source of information?
When you read an article online, consider the source before you decide to spout its pearls of wisdom or adopt it as your philosophy this week. Chances are it’s a cut and paste from Wikipedia. Or a stolen phrase from a famous author. An online magazine. A blogger. Yahoo, TMZ.
Plagiarism is so easy now. Not easily punished. Happens frequently–everywhere.
Just Because Someone Wrote It, Doesn’t Make It Right
You don’t believe everything you hear so don’t believe everything you read. Determine the source and find out if it’s reliable and accurate.
- Is it current?
- How old is it?
- Are there typos, inconsistencies?
- Is the source attributed in or at the end of the article?
- Is the author a known, published authority on the topic?
- Is the author within the profession about which the article is written?
- Are multiple sources used?
- Has the author been paid by a brand to write the content?
- Are quotes used?
- Is it in a blog or in a reliable newspaper or media source?
Question Everything, Assume Nothing
When you hire a plumber you don’ t assume he’s good. You check his references and get a referral. Your sources should be vetted as well. So should anyone writing or producing content that goes on your website.
People remember most what they read first and last of each day.
People traditionally read news first thing in the morning to see what’s going on. Now they look at websites, social media, video. Be sure of your sources so you won’t be the source of ridicule.
The moral of this story: Your website, your image.