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Public editor: A reader reminds us of the importance of attribution

Talking Points is a regular feature that debuted in the Life and Arts section this summer. Labelled as a daily roundup of digital miscellany (which runs in the paper and online), it is meant to include a few interesting tidbits of news "talking points" with some personal observation from the writer.

But one reader wrote to me this week and said that while certain writers always included references as to where the original news item came from, some posts have not included such attribution.

"It's not that it makes it more difficult to find the originating article(s) – good old Google; I'm just curious as to whether this is within ethical journalism practises?" the reader asked.

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I checked the past two weeks of Talking Points and found that while most of the items referred back to an original source such as BBC, The Canadian Press or The New York Times, for example, too many did not reference the original reporting source. Kathryn Hayward, acting Life and Arts editor, said there should always be attribution for news items and there had been some slip-ups over the past few weeks. She noted that the items without attribution had been reported by many outlets and included observations by the writer. Still, she said it would have been preferable to say that item was "widely reported by" and name a few sources if it was not possible to name the original source.

She will reinforce that point with the writers and editors working on the feature.

I agree that while those pieces were rewritten and in some cases included personal reflections, they should have either included an attribution to original research and reporting or the reporter needed to do the research themselves.

The reader points out an important point that is also mentioned in The Globe and Mail's Code of Conduct. It says that "information from another publication must be checked or credited before it is used. This does not apply to material supplied by news services to which proper credit is given."

If you would like to comment on this or any other journalistic issue, feel free to email me at publiceditor@globeandmail.com

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About the Author
Public Editor

Sylvia Stead has been a reporter and editor at the Globe since 1975, after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She won the Board of Governors Award there in 1974. As a reporter, Sylvia covered courts, education and Queen's Park. More

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