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McCarthyisms: Read it Three Times Online and its Yours

Why won’t Buffalo News political columnist Bob McCarthy cite his sources?

In Sunday’s column, he writes,

• Quote of the Week comes from Congressman-elect Chris Collins, who while in Washington a few days ago mistakenly found himself in a caucus room with people like Nancy Pelosi—and not John Boehner.

According to one congressional source attending, Republican Collins—breakfast plate in hand—suddenly rushed over to him and asked: “Wait…what meeting is this?”—only to be told he was in the Democratic caucus.

“Oh s***, I’m in the wrong meeting,” Collins was quoted as saying. “Where are the Republicans meeting?”

New Chief of Staff Chris Grant seems to be getting the hang of Washington spin.

“Congressman-elect Collins believes very strongly in reaching bipartisan solutions to fix this country’s problems,” Grant said. “What better way to accomplish that than introducing himself to his colleagues on the other side of the aisle?”

Quoted where? To whom? Why did McCarthy write this up without mentioning his source, or that the story was published online several days ago? The way he writes it for the News, you’d think it was his story—that some source of McCarthy’s provided him with these quotes.

Well, if you read AV Daily, you’d have known on Thursday that the story came from the “Heard on the Hill” section of Roll Call. The byline for that story belongs to Warren Rojas, and every single quote that McCarthy co-opts as his own come from Rojas’s story posted last Wednesday.

A New York University handbook for journalism students explains,

“Sources” may also be defined as research material, including newspapers, magazines, books, research reports, studies, polls, radio, television, newsreels, documentaries, movies, audio podcasts or video from the Web. All such sources, particularly secondary sources, should be carefully vetted. Good journalists don’t simply extract information, or claims, from written or broadcast material; they check that material against other or similar material for accuracy. Just because something is published doesn’t mean it’s accurate or fair. Wikipedia, for example, is not always an accurate source and should not be cited as such.

The reporter must clearly indicate where information comes from. Failure to disclose your reliance on someone else’s work is unethical, and can leave readers or viewers in the dark about the legitimacy of the information. This does not hold true if something is a well-known fact that is beyond reasonable dispute. For example, it would not be necessary to cite a source for “John Adams was the second president of the United States.”

If McCarthy’s quote of the week comes from Roll Call, not Chris Collins, then omitting the source for his material is unethical.

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