#Jprofrant: Don’t quote from the newspaper! Use primary sources, not secondary sources.

When you quote another news source in your story, it means you lack the skills or drive as reporter to get the material yourself. Many of my students quote statistics from The Boston Globe, or worse, marketing sites like BU Today or the Harvard Gazette.

Do this in the real world and your editor will roll her eyes, tell  you to go to the source and mark it down on her notes about why you shouldn’t pass probation.

Part of the confusion here stems from the failure to understand the difference between blogging—where you collect and cite info from other sources — and reporting, where you collect info yourself.

Let me be a chair-throwing editor for a moment  — IT’S JOURNALISM 101! GET THE DATA/QUOTE/INFO  YOURSELF.

This is a problem even if you cite the source. If you don’t’ cite the source, then you’ve crossed into ,  it’s plagiarism.

Most of the time, it’s easy to find the source.  Just figure out where the reporter got his or her data and get it there. Then learn where to look for primary sources for your next story. Examples of primary sources – academic journals, government reports, statistics from an independent source, databases. Here’s a great source of primary info. http://journalistsresource.org/  Also, try the library. Social media can also be a primary source, but it needs to be vetted. Later on that.

Examples of secondary sources: Newspaper and magazine article, marketing content, press releases and blog posts.  Most of the stuff that comes up when you do a Google search. You want to read this stuff, but don’t quote it.

The only time you want to quote a newspaper article is when the article is the news. For example, anything Bill O’Reilly may have written about the Falkland’s War. That story is about a dispute over his description of his deeds there. Not a great idea to quote Brian Williams on Iraq either.

Which brings up another reason not to steal someone else’s reporting – they might have gotten it wrong, which means you can’t even pull numbers or data from a secondary source. Go to the original source. (Your correspondent once killed off a couple hundred people in NC by supplying a graphic artist with morbidity data and calling it mortality data.)

And, don’t even think about using someone else’s quotes. That reporter worked hard to get those quotes.  Mitch Albom got caught doing that and the joke was – Maybe it was Wednesdays with Morrie.

So, do you job, don’t lose it!  Report, don’t copy.


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