Levels of Attribution

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The Winters Express is in the business of publishing timely, accurate and fair information. In pursuit of that goal, we encourage all conversations to be “on the record” and, by default, tend to report what we see as we see it. Sometimes, in the pursuit of truth, we may welcome information via other forms of attribution. Below are what “on the record” and those other shades of attribution mean to us.

When such a level of attribution is agreed upon between the Express and a potential source, we hold ourselves journalistically and ethically bound to uphold our side of the agreement. We focus on two aspects: quoting and identification.

  • On the record:  Direct quoting with the source fully identified in terms of name (first and last) and title. The goal is for readers to know who exactly said what exactly. Example: “Winters deserves a journalistic backbone,” said Winters Express publisher Taylor Buley.
  • On background: No direct quoting, but the source may be identified indirectly. “The Winters Express has changed a lot over the last few months,” says one Express employee who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
  • Not for attribution: Information may be used, but cannot be attributed to the source providing it. The journalist may confirm that information and source it from elsewhere, but no quoting or identification of the original source is to be used.
  • Off the record: Information provided solely intended to color a journalist’s approach to a story.  The journalist may confirm or include other related information sourced from elsewhere but the off-record information itself cannot be used in anyway for publication.

Anonymous sourcing is almost always frowned upon except in cases where:

  • Information is vital to the news report (i.e. cannot be confirmed independently from another source).
  • The information is not available except through anonymous sourcing.
  • The source is proven to be reliable for editorial purposes and is in a position to provide timely, accurate and fair information.

As journalists working at a professional California-based news operation with an exclusive focus on Winters and its surrounding region, we operate under California Shield Law, Evidence Code Section 1070, which reads as follows:

1070. (a) A publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected with or employed upon a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, or by a press association or wire service, or any person who has been so connected or employed, cannot be adjudged in contempt by a judicial, legislative, administrative body, or any other body having the power to issue subpoenas, for refusing to disclose, in any proceeding as defined in Section 901, the source of any information procured while so connected or employed for publication in a newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication, or for refusing to disclose any unpublished information obtained or prepared in gathering, receiving or processing of information for communication to the public.

(b) Nor can a radio or television news reporter or other person connected with or employed by a radio or television station, or any person who has been so connected or employed, be so adjudged in contempt for refusing to disclose the source of any information procured while so connected or employed for news or news commentary purposes on radio or television, or for refusing to disclose any unpublished information obtained or prepared in gathering, receiving or processing of information for communication to the public.

(c) As used in this section, “unpublished information” includes information not disseminated to the public by the person from whom disclosure is sought, whether or not related information has been disseminated and includes, but is not limited to, all notes, outtakes, photographs, tapes or other data of whatever sort not itself disseminated to the public through a medium of communication, whether or not published information based upon or related to such material has been disseminated.