Attribution is Key



Attribution tells the reader who said what.

It’s one of the most important things journalists do in their writing.

In college, it was drilled into my head on a daily basis, as it should have been. Learning about it then, I found it annoying. Now, I’m so glad my professors were relentless with it. It’s insanely important and I don’t even think twice about it now.

Attribution can be used for both spoken and written information. It lets the reader know where the information is coming from and who said/wrote it. Without attribution, the story wouldn’t make sense or have any credibility.

The trick with attribution is to come up with a balance.

I worry about boring the reader with my writing. That’s the last thing I want to do. At times, you have to get creative to make sure the story flows well. Sometimes, it’s just unavoidable and you have to deal with it. It’s not an exact science.

Changing words up, such as said and asked are good, but you have to be careful because words like “suggested,” “urged,” and “disclosed” have different meanings. A reporter has to be careful to not change the meaning of any quote. It’s easy to do. It goes to prove that proofreading is key, especially when you check quotes in a story.

As you are writing the story, feature or news, you’ll have to consider what you should be using. Your editor would be a good resource to bounce ideas off of, if you are using a lot of the same attributions. It’s not necessarily wrong, but I’d bet a notebook that the editor would want to change things up in the story.

For now, attribution can be a tough topic for some people. More and more often are papers being called out for attribution practices. 

I’m sure it’s a heated topic in newsroom around the country and the world. It’s been a staple of this profession and it will continue to be.



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