Guidelines for Evaluating Sources
Knowing that you're talking to the right source and that their information is correct, as well as making sure the right questions are being asked from an ethical perspective are all critical to reporting.
- 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 RTDNA Foundation's Journalism Ethics Project by Bob Steele, Nelson Scholar for Journalism Values at The Poynter Institute