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ReportingI’m a news junkie.

One thing that has always gotten me fired up is when one media outlet uses another media outlet as a source:  “CNN is reporting…” or “Media reports indicate…”  I don’t consider that legitimate sourcing.

But alas, according to reporters close to the situation, I stand corrected – at least in some situations.

In the case of a news event occurring in a remote location, there may not be many reporters on the scene actually covering the action.

I talked about this with Michael Bluhm, who teaches media ethics at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

His explanation was quite simple.

“If a reporter on the scene talks to two different, independent sources to confirm a story, then that story can be considered accurate based on the information available.  If a media outlet doesn’t have someone on the ground, the use of media reports may be okay.”

Joe Ferguson, president of the Arizona Press Club, and a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star, added:

“This one is difficult for me to answer. I have always worked as a reporter, not an editor, in my professional journalistic career.  But from my vantage point, local newspapers are dependent on wire services for breaking news outside of their coverage area. 

In terms of local news, I would always look to report independently rather than use another media as a source whenever possible unless there is a major and immediate public safety concern.”

 Jim Small, editor for Arizona News Service, which produces the Arizona Capitol Times, and whose work I greatly respect, had this to add about using other media as a source:

“That’s only acceptable in the immediate aftermath of another outlet breaking some sort of news, and is generally done only while your outlet is in the process of confirming the other outlet’s report and/or doing original reporting that advances or builds on the initial report.”

Scott Hanson
Scott Hanson
President Scott is president of HMA Public Relations and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. He’s a Phoenix native, husband, father of two and a fan of all sports and a participant in some. Check out Scott's full bio

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