Wikipedia:Objective sources

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Please remember that the website, news program, and newsletter that you find reliable and often use to get information may not be viewed the same by other editors of Wikipedia. In these situations it is best to find an objective source which corroborates your favored source.

Many times discussions on whether to include information into articles turns on whether it can be reliably sourced. Often the discussion may proceed like this:

Editor 1: Has this been reported anywhere? We need a reliable source.
Editor 2: Yes, I saw it last night on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
Editor 1: Olbermann!? That's not a reliable source, that guy lies all the time and has a bias against X in any case.
Editor 2: That's not true, and besides most of the information on that program is true anyway. You don't have to like the source, it only needs to be reliable.

Although editor 2 may be correct in reading the letter of Wikipedia policy regarding reliable sources, another response, which would have garnered more good faith, and would be more preferable would have been this:

Editor 2: Fine, you don't like Olbermann, but he was reporting on something that was in the AP, and I can find the story in my local newspaper.


Editor 2: Although I think the information is reliably sourced, I'll wait to find a source that we both agree is reliable, like the newspaper or AP.

Print sources[edit]

Although you will find some users who think a mainstream newspaper like the New York Times is unreliable, this essay is not meant to lend credence to claims of liberal/conservative bias in the news media. However, even in mainstream print media editors should be aware of the difference between items in the editorial columns and items in the news section. Specifically if an item is in a special column, editorial or op-ed piece, editors should look for corroborating information in the news section.

Further, although there are many authors, pundits, celebrities, and journalists that may garner trust and the aura of reliability as their views fit in line with yours, that does not necessarily mean that they also pass the tests for reliable sourcing. For example, Al Franken's book is not the best source on whether Bill O'Reilly actually grew up in Levittown. Rather than using Al Franken's book, a copy of the Country Recorder would be more objective and suitable. Further items in the Bill O'Reilly newsletter may seem to be objective and reliably sourced, however, still attempt to find news article relating to the subject before using the newsletter as a source.

Nothing in this essay is meant to comment on the veracity of the authors in question. It is only to point out that the motives of the individual may cause the fudging of important details which would add context to a situation. This would make ordinarily reliably sourced information less reliable.

Electronic media[edit]

In this era of 24 hour news channels sometimes the distinction between what is news and what is commentary can be blurred. It is important for editors here to know the difference between what is being reported and what is simply rumor and innuendo provided by the host of the news commentary program. To that end, it is probably in the editor's best interest to not source items to these programs although they may feel that these programs are trustworthy. Simply because you saw something on Greta Van Susteren, does not necessarily mean that you are getting an objective review of what actually happened. In these cases, it is in the editor's best interest to review what more objective sources, like the AP or Reuters are reporting.

Although news commentary shows like Nancy Grace, Scarborough Country, Hannity and Colmes, and the O'Reilly Factor will often engage in serious discussion of current news, it is important for the editor to distinguish that these shows often have an open agenda. Granted these shows do not fall into the category of extremist sources, however, the agenda of the program may color the presentation of certain information. Therefore, it is advisable that editors refrain from using these shows as primary sources for information not sourced elsewhere.

In addition, editors should be mindful that programs which discuss news, but are primarily comedic in nature, like Saturday Night Live, the Colbert Report, or the Daily Show, should not be used as a source unless it is in reference to something occurring during the show.

Further, in recent times the Internet has become a major source of information about current events. These includes blogs, and sites like The Drudge Report and the Huffington Post. According to WP:RS blogs are largely not acceptable as sources.[1] However blogs that also collect news information present a unique challenge to the Wikipedia Editor. For example, the Huffington Post blog also contains an extensive repository of news articles from around the country. The Wikipedia editor should be aware of quoting information directly from websites like this. In these cases, it is best to simply source to the newspaper article and not to the blog. If the article can only be accessed through the blog, perhaps the editor should explain in the citations where the article is from and state that the Post is only hosting it. Likewise, the Drudge Report and other websites similar to it, although not blogs per se, may often contain breaking news which has not been reported in the mainstream media. It is advisable for editors to simply wait until it is reported in the mainstream media. If it is truly something of note, it will be reported somewhere in the media in due time.

Related links[edit]


  1. ^ Some newspapers host interactive columns that they call blogs, and these may be acceptable as sources so long as the writers are professionals and the blog is subject to the newspaper's full editorial control; that is, when it isn't really a blog. Posts left on these columns by readers may never be used as sources.