10 warning signs a story shouldn’t run

By · Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

A parallel can be drawn between people who make serious, personal decisions and journalists who make decisions about whether to run stories. Personal decisions have long-lasting consequences. The same is true for reporters and editors. It is a major decision to run any story, and when a reporter or editor decides to publish despite serious doubts for any reason, there can be long-lasting consequences, too.

A role of an editor, especially, is to recognize the warning signs that a story is not ready to be published and to make the tough decision to hold it. Sometimes the editor must make this decision alone. Whenever possible, however, the editor benefits from talking with other editors first.

Don’t have an editor? All the more reason to read this list and be aware of the warning signs that a story should not run.

  1. One-sided story
  2. Only one source
  3. A key source is anonymous
  4. Thin or little substantiation
  5. Missing or unclear attribution
  6. Few or no direct quotes
  7. No new information
  8. Conflicting information
  9. Editorializing
  10. Gut instinct

Adhering to standards is even more important when reporters and editors are on deadline in a digital-first environment, and the following tips are for you.

If a news organization loses credibility, it also risks losing page views and valuable hits on its site. Keep your credibility by applying the standards.

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