Promise Media

Content Attribution Builds Trust, Credibility With Readers

The use of content attribution is one of the most basic concepts in traditional print journalism. It has benefits for online journalism as well.

Content attribution provides the source of a fact, quote or controversial statement. It uses words such as “says”, “said”, “according to” and variations along with the person, website, etc., that offered the information.

Newspapers are more strict about using attribution than magazines. It is more likely to appear in reporting of people and events and less likely to appear in opinions or commentary.

It is much less likely to appear in original online articles because so many of them are written by people without journalism training or knowledge of the need for it. One important exception is Wikimedia, which uses citations as a form of attribution.

Either way, content attribution ensures higher accuracy and increases trust and credibility with readers and website visitors.

Attribution Examples

Consider the following two examples of a claimed fact. They both make the same statement except one doesn’t have attribution and the other does.

“NFL viewership has declined 50 percent this year because people are mad about kneeling players.”

“NFL viewership has declined 50 percent this year because people are mad about kneeling players, Joe Smith said.”

The first example sounds as if the writer is making that highly suspicious claim. The second example shows that Joe Smith and not the writer is making it. As a result, it is Joe Smith and not the writer who suffers a potential credibility problem if the claim isn’t true.

Just as importantly, attribution requires the writer to look for a credible source of information and not produce a “fact” off the top of the head. The act of looking for a source takes time, which is precious in the fast-moving, low-cost online environment. But accuracy pays dividends.

Attribution Frequency

A series of personal observations and opinions like the ones in this article don’t require attribution.

Facts that are debatable or subject to change usually require it. Statements with numbers in them almost always require it. Controversial statements or anything with the potential to trigger a lawsuit for libel or defamation of character absolutely require it.

If possible, use attribution at least several times in an article to assure readers that most of the facts come from a particular source.

In the online environment, the end result is an article that assures the reader about its accuracy and about the writer’s trustworthiness. It also might make return visits more likely.

Leave a Reply

© 2007-2017 Promise Media LLC • Contact