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How to Write a News Article: Naming Sources

Basic guidelines for creating news articles in print, photos, and video.

About Sources

A good reporter makes it clear where he or she got their information. Everything but the most obvious and commonly known facts should be attributed. When in doubt, don’t assume your reader knows. State where you got your information. The reader can then decide how reliable a story is.

As in an essay, the source needs to be named in the story:

  • The mayor expressed his support of a designated zone for protesters.
  • According to police records, the suspect had been arrested for fraud before.
  • The jury will announce its decision tomorrow, the court bailiff stated.

Unlike an essay, the source does not need a text citation in the story after each attribution or to be listed in a reference or works cited list.

All quotes must be attributed. Include the name of the person speaking in the sentence and surround their exact words in quotations marks. 

  • For example – Former President George Bush said, “Read my lips. No new taxes!”
  • Never change what someone said – Doublecheck if you’re not sure of the exact wording.
  • If a grammatical error in the exact quotation might make the person look bad, then the reporter needs to decide if it would be unfair to leave the mistake. Check with your editor.

Use multiple sources. Stories are more balanced when multiple points of view are presented. Make sure you don’t use just the official source for information. Try to talk with all parties involved.

  • For example – A story on panhandling needs to include information from people who ask for money, people who’ve been asked for money, people who’ve given money, and people who refused – not just city officials.

Because sources have different perspectives, their information may contradict. The reporter has a responsibility to doublecheck information for accuracy.

  • In the example above, any claim of increased panhandling should be checked with public records. Is there an increase in complaints or police action? Can you observe for yourself or ask people who regularly drive those streets for their observation?

It's a challenge for any organization.

In particular, any opinion must be attributed. Adding the opinion of persons involved in the story can add personal perspective to a story. However, the reporter should never include or shape the story to show his or her opinion. The reporter's job is to build a complete picture that the reader can base a decision on.