‘If Your Mother Says She Loves You, Check It Out’

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The one thing about citizen journalism which I want to address is that with the title of journalism, there also should be a responsibility on verifying the facts and always err to the side of attribution.

Anonymous sources decrease the legitimacy of your information if that’s all you use.

I don’t, and have never as far as I can recall, remember every using anonymous sources during my days in radio and print in a news story.  If an elected official says something, quote it. If you hear that an elected official said something, ask them if they said it and double check with them that those were their words before you throw it out on the web.

An old journalist creed that should always be remembered is this: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

And if you are the source, then own it.

Anonymous sources are great to start on an dogged path or get you thinking about “You know, this might just be a story.”  They do have value of starting your investigation. But make sure that if you are presenting a piece of journalism, that you attribute and contact whomever is the focus of said investigation.

Two simple rules: Verify, Verify, Verify.

If you are editorializing your thoughts on a particular subject, then let people know that it is your thoughts and perceptions about the issue.

The web is changing the rules. Blogs, for the most part, are opinion pieces but they also can break some great stories.

In a recent conversation I had with a former television exec, he said that his journalists starting checking community blogs in the morning when the realized it was a great place for story ideas.

He also said he gave the blogs in question attribution. I found that to be very interesting. You will see more of this in the future.

However, if you are crusading to be a citizen journalist, know that you are just as liable as someone writing a story for a newspaper, television station or radio broadcast.

Make sure the facts are right if you are presenting it as straight journalism.

For more information about ethics in journalism, the Society of Professional Journalists has a site with one-stop shopping on what you need to know.

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  1. […] Right now, I see Twitter as the best place for breaking news however there always needs to be  constant confirmation. (Remember the celebrity death hoaxes that happen over there on occasion.) In the news business, we used to say “If your mother says she loves you, check it out” which I wrote about a couple of years ago. […]

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