Wikinews:Original reporting

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An important part of any online media outlet is their ability to have first-hand access to details, interviews and photographs that haven't already been sifted through other news agencies — allowing us the ability to determine for ourself what is worth reporting about a certain story. To this end, there are a number of Wikinews members who will arrange to do original reporting.

Keep notes

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Etiquette

You must be able to provide evidence of everything you include in an original article. Therefore, it is vital that you keep adequate notes, and place your notes on the article's discussion page. Add the Original reporting template ({{original}}) to the Sources section of your article. Include everything you can, including (for example) transcripts of interviews and e-mails. You can upload audio files to the Commons. If you don't want to publish notes on Wikinews itself, whether for privacy or length reasons, feel free to e-mail the research to an administrator or an accredited reporter, who should note on the article's talk page that they have received the research notes.

When taking notes, you might try making your own shorthand. Specify what are verbatim quotes.

Ensure you clearly identify yourself on the article's talk page in order for others to know who can verify the evidence. Wikinews has a peer-review process for publication, and a reviewer must have well-defined evidence with which to verify the article. Evidence which is of unknown source is not evidence.

Please do not misrepresent facts or swamp the article with similar unsourced material if unsourced material you have submitted is not being cited.

Ethics

Journalists should follow a Code of Ethics, some aspects of which may be relevant to your conduct when in contact with third-party sources.

If you are planning to report about a demonstration, choose beforehand what side you are going to be on: you can join the protest, or be a neutral reporter. If you go to a protest to participate in it, leave your Wikinews Press Card at home!

Other behaviour is taken for granted in interview situations, which may not be documented in the ethics code, but which should be documented elsewhere. Some is documented below, but it is beyond the scope of this document to give detailed information about how to conduct an interview.

Talking to sources

A good article will have multiple sources quoted, but every article must have multiple sources contacted behind-the-scenes. It is not enough that the subject of the article told you that he or she is "the first Canadian to do a certain action", that he or she "operates the largest website of its genre" or "was fired from his or her job because of comments he or she made about the President". The onus is on you as the reporter, to make sure those facts are correct.

Our articles should not advance an agenda, they are here to inform, not influence. If Person A says that Person B was fired due to theft, go talk to Person B and get the other side of the story as well. Do not judge which side of the story "seems more believable" and then only tell that side — present both sides in a neutral light and let the reader make up their own mind.

Laws vary between nations, but it is typically required that you identify yourself as a reporter to the person with whom you are speaking. You don't need to make this an awkward formality, just work it into your introductions.

"Hi, I'm Jeff Davies, a local reporter who's covering the arrest outside your restaurant yesterday. I was wondering if I could ask you a couple questions?"

Again, you must inform the subject if you are going to make an audio recording of the interview. It is best to present it to them as a precaution for their sake. If they ask why you're recording, don't say "So that I have proof of what you said" — simply explain that "I'd like to have it as a reference when writing up the story tonight, because I would hate to accidentally misquote you on anything or leave out one of your salient points". If they're a public figure you can always use a search engine to determine the proper spelling of their name once you get home...but if it's not somebody likely to have already been in a number of news stories, double-check that you have all the names/spellings correct.

As a general legal principle, everything a source tells you before you've identified yourself is "off the record" and cannot be published unless you get them to repeat it for you later. Similarly, if a source tells you anything is "off the record", do not print it. On the other hand, people will often allow you to speak to them for "background material", where they do not wish to be identified in your article — but may still provide you with information nonetheless. Sometimes they will allow this information to be credited to "a police officer on the scene said that...", other times they will demand no reference in the article. Respect their wishes.

Often a source will give you a photograph of their imprisoned brother, their father during the war or some similar family 'photograph' to be used for your story. Ask them if they'd be willing to release the licensing to the image, so that other media outlets can use the photograph in the future if the subject returns in another news story — if you can do it without seeming awkward, direct them towards permissions@wikimedia.org to confirm the release of their image.

When you are unsure of anything, clarify it.

If you speak to someone who deals with the press often, you should be mindful of the fact that such people often become expert at manipulating the impressions of reporters. Your ability to see through manipulation techniques will improve with practice. If your source has more experience in interviews than you do, then it is important to consider what slant the person may want to give your final story, and to make sure that you, rather than the source, decide which details are relevant.

Interviews are best the closer they are to the source: for example, at their workplace instead of over the phone. Information from news releases, phone or e-mail interviews, etc., should be noted as such in the article.

You should normally prepare for interviews by learning some background information. For example, if you profile a mayor, you shouldn't ask him when he was elected. You should be able to learn that elsewhere beforehand.

As long as you have advised your source that you are a reporter, anything they say is presumptively "on the record" and can be quoted. However, sources may expect that only the formal "interview" part of your interaction is going to be used in your story, and may be surprised if you choose to use other material.

Since Wikinews has no, strict, formal approval process for authors, when contacting sources, you must represent yourself as an independent author/researcher, not as a 'representative' of Wikinews. This remains the case if you are an accredited reporter: then, you must introduce yourself as an independent or freelance reporter. You may, of course, inform the source where you hope to publish, but please ensure they understand in this case that your own views and activities are not representative of anyone else who uses Wikinews, nor does the reputation of Wikinews, or lack of reputation of Wikinews, reflect on yourself. Wikinews aims for high standards; meets those set by Google News for listing as a news source (as-per most mainstream sources) but is a volunteer best-effort with regards to reporters' fact-checking and independent editorial review and oversight.

Be polite and act without bias.

Eyewitness accounts

When reporting as a witness of an event, explain briefly in the Original reporting notes section of the Talk page (described above) who you are and why you were present, in relation to the event, in addition to the usual features of the story. In this circumstance you are the source, and others may wish to contact you for verification, interview, or for other details.

See also

External links

Interviews
Reporting basics


Journalism sites