Thursday, May 07, 2009

The "Two Source" rule?

Just like I've said for ages, journalists tend to get it wrong on most stories, in some critical detail. In this case, journalists from 'quality' newspapers were found to have taken a mis-quote from the wikipedia page about Maurice Jarre (film composer, father of Jean-Michel), the quote actually coming from someone else entirely, and then printed it in Maurice's obituary. So, these professional journalists have broken the 'two source' rule that professional journalists are supposed to honour - you should have two independent, reliable sources for any fact in a story.

Okay, guilty as charged, I've only used one source,, but then I'm only a blogger so I don't count because my writing is too risky anyway.


  1. The "two source rule," though widely cited and often promoted even by reputable journalists and editors, is pretty much a joke.
    Depending on the fact that is to be verified, one source can be sufficient. Multiple sources can be insufficient, especially if they aren't truly independent, and that can be difficult to assess.
    Like anyone else, journalists must use something called good judgment to assess whether they know something to be a fact and can therefore present it to their audience as fact.
    Otherwise it should be presented as a claim and attributed to its source so the audience can make an informed decision as to the claim's reliability and value.
    If a journalist writes, "A Wikipedia page on Jarre quoted him as saying, 'bla bla bla' that would be fine as long the journalist saw it there with her own eyes.

  2. One source can be enough, that's true. But I think that that one source should be a primary source (i.e. someone directly involved in the story), and wikipedia rarely qualifies as such. I hope we can at least agree on that.

    In the particular case of the Jarre journalistic fiasco, it was a case of lazy journalists picking up a dodgy quote from wikipedia (and as far as I know, not referencing it as coming from there either), and failing to check it with, say Jarre's agent, or an interview in a reputable publication, or, frankly, anywhere else on the internet outside of the previous 48 hours! That's just laziness.