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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Would Footnoting Improve MSM Reporting?

Amy Ridenour thinks so. It would depend upon what was footnoted, of course, which means reporting assertions of the "most right-thinking people are liberals on this issue" sort would likely continue unless the regimen included all assertions subject to verification.

Footnoting would also present a problem when sources insist on anonymity. Yes, there has been vastly too much anonymous sourcing in the MSM for decades, but the fact is there are some stories that cannot be done without such sources.

Possible alternative - Instead of an identifying footnote, the reporter could describe the grounds for granting the source anonymity, as a means of reassuring readers of the veracity of the information provided.

Another alternative: Require that the email address of the reporter be published at the end of every story posted on the media organization's web site and reporters be required to respond credibly to all inquiries seeking regarding the grounds upon which a story is based.

To be sure, the Internet removes entirely the argument that there isn't sufficient room to footnote a daily news story. And the movement to make some newsrooms and the news-gathering process itself more transparent with measures like live web-casting news meetings and editorial board meetings indicates at least some recognition of the problem.

But while I'm not holding my breath, it would be a worthwhile exercise for bloggers to begin campaigning for MSM footnoting - and practicing it themselves as well.

What do you think?

News Media