Today’s Credibility Crisis: How to Vet a Trusted Source

December 2017

Source: iStock

Last week was another difficult one for mainstream news media. Outlets like CNN, CBS and a political reporter at The Washington Post released information that was either wrong or misleading. There is, however, a reason to still consider each a trusted source: they admitted their errors publicly and aren’t likely to make the same mistakes twice.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to discern the best version of the truth in what we read, view or hear, given reality is being bent and manipulated with regularity. Some disinformation is easy to detect, like badly doctored images of supposedly battered celebrities that pop up in suspect “news feeds.” Other items require deep digging to disprove — an especially difficult task if other sources pick up on the same news.

Not only does today’s credibility crisis confuse consumers of news, it makes it more difficult for those who help generate it. Besides traditional news agencies, companies like Twirling Tiger Media create press releases, sponsored content, blog posts, white papers and magazines that are based on true, verifiable data.

Here are some ways we try to ensure our content is rooted in real events and people and facts.

Always consider the source

First and foremost, know all you can about any company or individual, starting with a thorough online search. Be especially careful if, as you type in your search, it auto-fills with “scam” or “fake” or “arrest” — suggesting others also questioned a company’s or individual’s authenticity or reputation. (This is also one reason a business needs a well-designed web site to show not just a brand’s products and value proposition but its thought leadership and successes.)

Get to the root of the issue

When doing background research, try to find the true source of news. For instance, if you want to incorporate results from an often-quoted survey, go to the place where those results first appear, which is usually the analysts’ site or the sponsoring organization’s (or both). You need to know exactly how and when that survey was conducted and how many respondents were included to ensure you use accurate, credible results in your own work. If someone is quoted, see what reaction it received via social media. And, of course, if you do include a quote, make sure you cite exactly where it’s lifted from. A good editor will demand it.

Do your own interviews

News reporters today have to work against fierce competition and compression of time. Fortunately, custom content providers normally work under more generous deadlines. Getting it right always supersedes getting it first. But a piece is truly custom when it includes original content that comes from interviewing expert resources — not retreading someone else’s work. If you are coming up dry on resources to tap, leverage your LinkedIn network or call on colleagues for an assist.

Do not use copyrighted works

That brings us to a final point to build your own credibility as a trusted source. Don’t ever claim someone else’s work as your own. Sometimes this happens after a work is turned in, when a copy editor rearranges words or muddles attributions. It’s one reason all of our content here at Twirling Tiger Media goes through at least two editors and must be approved by the writer (and, often, quoted sources) before it is published. It’s also one reason those who write for us almost always ask for more assignments; we take more than minimum steps to ensure accuracy.

Knowing what to look for when creating your own work will help you become a better media consumer too. Yes, sometimes even the best of us make mistakes, but trusted sources are transparent in explaining what happened and own up to their errors.

—Anne