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Treatment of sources


sprclogoFoundations_mainEthical guidelines
Reporters should treat all sources as they would like to be treated: with respect and professionalism. Sources do not have to respond to questions or agree to be interviewed. Helping them to understand their information is essential to the story and will show others the importance and truth of the topic is the best way to get their information or story presented. Sources have rights – and responsibilities. Reporters can help make them aware of both.

If interviewing minors, be sure the source understands what is being asked, why it is asked, why the information is necessary and how it will be used. In some cases involving controversial or sensitive issues, parental consent might be a good option if accuracy is in question or if there’s any doubt the student is able to understand the potential results of answering.

Staff manual process
Part of the information-gathering process should be extensive training in interviewing, including professional handling of minors as well as reluctant sources. Student editors should develop a checklist for reporters.


  • A sample post-information gathering checklist could include:
    • Are these sources the most credible and reliable? Are they truly experts for this topic?
    • Is the information is accurate and credible?
    • Is the information contextually sound?
    • Do facts support the lead?
    • Does background material make the story complete?
    • Is the story free of unattributed value judgments and statements of writer opinion?
    • Does the story make sense?
    • Does numerical data make sense?
  • Interviewing
    • Are sources fully and correctly identified?
    • Do multiple sources bring a variety of viewpoints?
    • Did the writer verify information with credible sources?
  • Research
    • Are the name and URL of an online site accurate?
    • Is online information credible and up-to-date?
  • Publication
    • Is style consistently formatted?
    • Is information properly attributed?
    • If the story has an anecdotal, delayed lead, does it have a nut graf to help show the focus?
    • Are terms used correctly?
    • Do facts in the story match information reported across all platforms?
    • Does the headline reflect story content?

Be Consistent in Getting Consent Where It Is Needed Journalism Education Association Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Interviewing Children: Guidelines for Journalists, Dart Center
Guidelines for Interviewing Juveniles, Radio Television Digital News Association
Additional Guidelines for Interviewing Juveniles, The Poynter Institute
Best Practices for Covering Children Younger Than 18, Associated Press
When It Is Acceptable to Use Children As Sources?, Columbia Journalism Review
Respect sources, National Public Radio
Transparency Steve Buttry
Audio: Understanding FERPA, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee, Press Rights Minute

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