By LaReeca Rucker
As ethical journalists, we have a responsibility to tell the truth. One way we do that is through attribution. If we use a quote from someone, we must cite the source. If we insert a fact in a story or an opinion piece that could be questioned, we must tell the readers where it came from.
It’s easy to listen to the news today, from various media sources, and hear conflicting facts. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish between what is real or fake news? Who exactly can we trust?
As journalists – real journalists – when we write an opinion piece or news story and we assert that Donald Trump is responsible for an increase in terrorism in the U.S., or that he teamed with Russian leaders to tamper with the presidential election, or that Barack Obama was aiding and recruiting for ISIS during his term as president, or that Hillary Clinton murders small children, we must be able to back up those statements. Who said it? If you’ve heard it, it must have come from someone. Cite the source.
But even an opinion piece should be factual.
You can say that you believe that the Clintons and their policies contributed to an increase in crime in the United States, but even in an opinion column, you cannot state that as a fact without citing your source for the information.
For example, I have heard several outlets that I would consider “fake news” reporting that abortion rates in this country have risen in recent years, but one of our official government sources for health-related topics, the Center for Disease Control, recently released a report that says the number of abortions that have occurred in the United States has declined in recent years nationally.
However, that same statistic may not be true when it comes to state statistics. Research it, and you may find that the state abortion rate has increased in the last few years. (I do not know if that statistic is true. I would have to go to the Mississippi Health Department website and research the topic, or contact the health department and speak to someone in order to confirm that fact.)
I am the editor of our site, and you are the writers or columnists. When I edit your work, I look for grammar errors. I may make your writing tighter or more concise, but I will not edit your piece and change your thoughts on a topic.
However, if your article includes statements that are not properly attributed with a reputable source, such as the FBI Uniform Crime Report, or information that is stated as fact, but that cannot be proven, I may omit those statements from your piece, leaving your other content. This is an explanation why.
Believe it or not, real journalists are sticklers for the truth and facts. I have my own personal political opinions, and I may share some of those with you, although I try to remain neutral in class.
I think this website demonstrates that diverse opinions are welcome, regardless of your political beliefs, but if we state something as fact in an opinion column, we must be able to back it up, cite our sources and attribute where the information came from. And we must make sure that those sources are reputable. Our reputation depends on it.