Attribution when Using Materials from Social Networks


Attribution and giving credit to the source are key elements in creating news stories. These elements should not be omitted when journalists are publishing news stories from the online source. Therefore, journalists should give credit and attribute anyone who shares newsworthy material on social networks.

According to the BBC Guidelines, it stated that journalists should ‘normally identify on-air and online sources of information and significant contributors, and provide their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status.’ It shows that giving credits to the source is not only matters of plagiarism and ethics, it also enables the audiences and readers to understand the background of the source and judge their standpoints. Attributing the source can enhance the credibility of the stories as well. If journalists did not provide the source to readers, they may wonder how journalists know the information and may not trust the content in the story.

In the NPR Ethics Handbook, it stated that ‘Online sources should be on-the-record too. In today’s world, many contacts with sources are made online — via emails and social media sites. As we discuss in the guidelines about accuracy and transparency, NPR pushes to keep its interviews on-the-record. The same is true of our “virtual” interactions with sources. We make that clear to potential sources when we reach out to them.’ Thus, although the origin of online materials from the social network may be not clear, but journalists still have the responsibility to give credits to the source.

Steve Buttry (2011), Director of Student Media, LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication suggested journalists should attribute and give credits to the source anytime. He also said that journalists should be careful to the identity of the source as people may always have different identities.



BBC Guidelines

NPR Ethics Handbook

Buttry 2011, ‘You can quote me on that: Advice on attribution for journalists’, The Buttry Diary.



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