Attribution, or crediting people with statements given in news articles, is a practice as essential as it is overlooked.
It’s easy for reporters to forget, after learning something they are going to include in their article, to credit the person who originally told them about it in each and every sentence that technically needs to be credited.
One nugget of wisdom that stuck with me from a supervisor in a college internship was to ask myself, after every sentence I wrote, “Says who?”
That’s why I was glad when a reader pointed out recently I had forgotten to attribute a statement in a story I wrote on Lake Mendocino facing recreation closures.
The reader was right; in the first sentence, I say, “Lake Mendocino is facing a potential closure of its recreation sites as garbage piles and homeless encampments add to the already unmanageable workload of park rangers.”
That statement should have ended with “…, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.”
While I hadn’t noticed it was missing from the first sentence, which was meant to summarize the article, it is important to make sure readers know it’s someone other than myself or the newspaper that is making that assertion, especially in more critical situations, like a crime report.
When we receive a press release from the Sheriff’s Office, for example, we most often end the first sentence with, “…, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office reported,” (or some other words to that effect).
This is absolutely necessary in a case of breaking news like crime, when we cannot possibly get a first-hand account, to let everyone know the original source of that…
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