This Financial Times memo is intended for reporters, but it's a great refresher for editors, too. The rules laid out here on sourcing say a lot about what it takes to be credible. And we are the protectors of that credibility. Some highlights:
* Seek to disprove what you have been told, even if that takes time: at the FT we do let the truth get in the way of a good story and when we run it.I especially like the "test yourself" advice. How often are we expected to find errors in stories about topics we're clueless about?
* Be explicit about what you do not know. At the very least, this can help readers - and editors - to avoid misinterpreting stories.
* Always give people or companies the chance to answer the charges being levelled at them. Remember that cross-checking builds respect with sources.
* Test yourself to find out how comfortable you would be with a challenge to your story's veracity the following morning.
* When you cite "analysts" or "experts", this means you have spoken to a handful of such people and that a consensus exists. If your claim is controversial, "analysts say" is a poor attribution. If you have not spoken to anyone in particular, it is mendacious.
This is the main reason we need to be given more than 15 minutes to edit a story and slap on a headline. Sure, I'll fix the grammar, run a spell-check, and parrot the lede in the headline. But how can I double-check phone numbers and addresses, confirm the names of officials and Joe Schmoe, check the math, or read a quick primer on credit ratings to understand what I'm editing?