BuzzFeed, the high-powered website that seems to be constantly making news, has done it again. Only this time, the latest development provides considerable instructive value for B2B editorial managers. A few days ago, BuzzFeed executive editor, news Shani O. Hilton unveiled an Editorial Standards and Ethics Guide that does an excellent job of covering several important bases. Despite encouragement by ASBPE’s Ethics Committee, many B2B staffs still work without a net in terms of being able to consult a tailored in-house document when ethical dilemmas arise. Reviewing BuzzFeed’s approach is highly recommended.
The document is divided into four-sections: (1) Sourcing, (2) Corrections, Updates, Deletions and Errors, (3) Legal and Ethics, (4) The Editorial and Business Relationship.
In view of my Ethics Committee’s preoccupation with developing its new B2B Facts Management Guide, I found several guidelines in the Sourcing section to be especially enlightening:
“Information — excluding common knowledge — should come from a verified source. Wikipedia, IMDb, and other websites that can be edited by any anyone should never be used as sources in a story; they are places to begin research, not to finish it. Acceptable verified sources include interviews, legal documents, research by experts, academic journals, databases, and, with attribution, stories from trusted news organizations.”
“When considering reporting on a study or poll, ask these three questions: Have the authors included a detailed methodology? How many people did they study? (For most studies, be skeptical of anything below 1,000.) Do the authors have any conflict of interest? For medical studies: Was the study performed on humans, or other animals? (Drugs, for example, that work in mice might fail in humans.) For polls: How, precisely, were the questions worded? Never take information directly from a press release. Instead, ask the authors for a copy of the actual study or poll. In informational and entertainment polls that are conducted by BuzzFeed editorial, don’t suggest that results reflect a scientific sample. The data journalism team is available to assist staffers who have questions about data.”
“Anonymous quotes are permitted, though writers should always try to get a source on the record before agreeing to let them be anonymous. Staffers should spell out why their source is anonymous and include an explanation line in the story that the reader will understand. When possible, writers should share the source’s identity with their editor, unless it’s a very extreme case, in which case the editor-in-chief and executive editor should be consulted prior to publication. We don’t have an arbitrary number of anonymous sources required to verify a story. One well-placed anonymous source is worth more than four anonymous sources who are all repeating the same rumor.”