Getting the facts right

As an aid to our worker-correspondents, the Militant is publishing below its guidelines for providing source material for articles sent to the paper. These were first published in 1996.

The masthead of the Militant reads, “A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people.” The Militant makes a promise to working people—we tell the truth. We stand behind what we write and have the facts to prove it. This is the paper’s political responsibility. We encourage readers to send the Militant articles about political developments and struggles by working people and the oppressed all over the world. The Militant couldn’t exist without its worker-correspondents. To help make sure these articles meet our high standards of accuracy, we are taking this opportunity to reaffirm and publish our sourcing policy.

The Militant editorial staff needs to verify every single fact in each article that appears in the paper. Sourcing starts with interviews, as well as facts from other newspapers, magazines, television, radio, books, websites, or Internet publications. No article will be considered for publication without source materials arriving along with the story.

It’s important to get the names of those quoted in the Militant. This paper’s policy is not to use anonymous quotes, or just individuals’ first names. The only exception to this rule can be when it’s clearly stated that the person interviewed requested that their name not be used, or that a pseudonym be used, for fear of persecution by an employer or a state repressive institution. When a correspondent asks, “May I quote you for an article in the Militant?” They should ask for the full name. It’s often useful to find out the person’s union affiliation and age as well. Verify that you’ve written down the correct spelling of the person’s name while you’re at it. Many people like to see their name in the paper, but only if it’s accurately spelled and identified.

When the source is an interview it should be noted in the article submitted. Be prepared to fax or e-mail your notes to the Militant if there’s any question that needs to be verified. Leaflets for the spelling of names and clippings from newspapers for quotations are other examples of source materials. If you use portions of an article previously published in the Militant, be sure to cite that as a source, and include the clipping, even if it’s available on the Mlitant’s website.

One common mistake is the misspelling of names and places. Be sure to double-check with the person or check a map or dictionary. Other common mistakes are numbers, dates, accents on names, and the exact names of political parties, unions, and other organizations. A source is needed for all of the above mentioned; it’s easy to misremember such details.

Judge the sources you are using from a political standpoint. Not every “fact” that appears in a bourgeois newspaper is true. Working-class correspondents need to judge: Who is saying this, why do they say it, and is this accurate? Supposedly neutral descriptions, terms, or wording used by the capitalist press often slip in their own class bias. It’s better to report it in your own words.

Each source submitted with an article to the Militant should be labeled with letters, from A to Z. Use numbers within each source to indicate the specific section cited. For example, to verify a fact in your article using an item in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette call that item Source A.

Underline the sentence or paragraph in the source that verifies that fact and label it. For example, underline the sentence with the first fact you use from Source A as A-1. Insert at the end of the paragraph in your article that uses A-1 as the source. If you use a second section of the same article for a source, underline it and label that A-2 and so on, until you’ve indicated sources for every fact. The source numbers in each source should be in consecutive order. (See sample article and sources)

If the source is from reporters notes on an interview you conducted, mark the section with and send in your relevant notes.

Marking these source references for each paragraph of your article will make it possible for the Militant editor and copy editors to do an accurate job in preparing the article for publication.

An alternate method is to hand write your sourcing on the article and fax that to the Militant. Sources can be faxed or emailed as long as they are marked properly.

Each source should clearly show what publication it is from and the date of the publication. The entire article or report should be provided, not just excerpts. Send long reports as a digital file or if necessary as a specific URL. For a book, send in the title page, table of contents, and one page before and after the page you use as a source.

If your source is an interview by you, keep a copy of your notes for six weeks after the story appears.

(Please see the accompanying sample of a properly sourced article and two of the sources.)

Working people want to be armed with the facts. By sticking to these guidelines, all Militant correspondents can help make their paper an effective, powerful weapon in discussing world politics and acting in the struggles of the international working class.

Click here to see sample sourced article and sources.