Guidelines for Evaluating Sources

 

  • How does this source know what he/she knows? Can I prove the source's information through government records or other documents? How can I confirm this information through further reporting or other sources?
  • Are there underlying assumptions that my source depends on which I should question?
  • How representative is my source's point of view? Who else knows what my source knows?
  • What is the past reliability and reputation of this source?
  • What is the source's motive for providing the information? What does this source have to gain or lose? Will this information make the source look better, worse, guilty or innocent?
  • What is my relationship with the source?
  • Why am I using this source? Did I use this source because I am in a rush and this source often gives good quotes and soundbites on deadline? Is this source overused?
  • Do I fear losing this source? Does that perception color my judgment? Am I being manipulated by this source?
  • Is there an independent person who has the expertise on the subject of this story and can help me verify/interpret/challenge the information my source has given me?

 

Created through RTDNF's Journalism Ethics Project by Bob Steele, Nelson Scholar for Journalism Values at The Poynter Institute.