Thursday, September 27, 2007

weekly writing Coach: e-cites

Your copyeditor knew this was coming: Now that we have blogs and websites aplenty with content worth quoting, writers are more confused about citations, with some reverting to bad habits used in days of yore to refer to other, non-electronic entities and publications. (We refer to citations that take the easy way out, by referring to the entire organization as the source of a quote, as in "the university said today.")

The awkward transition to e-citations in mainstream media is highlighted by Robert Niles in a commentary on the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review website, here. Noting that "the newspaper model doesn't always apply online," Niles highlight a case first raised on the Daily Kos blog about a story in the Wall Street Journal that attributed a position to the blog, when it really belonged to someone publishing on that Web community. Confused? Niles explains:

On DailyKos, a reader signs up for an account and, after a one week wait, can start posting diaries (i.e., a personal blog) to the website. One of the site's editors might then read it in consideration for linking to it from the site's heavily-read front page, but there is no other staff editorial review of the diary. DailyKos doesn't assign topics to readers and doesn't pay anyone other than a handful of editors and fellows for diaries, according to the site's FAQ. Unless a diary contains copyrighted material or otherwise violates the site's rules for posting, it will remain on the site, even if it conflicts with the owner's political beliefs.
Niles' specific recommendations, which appear in his commentary, urge good-faith research on who speaks for whom, and offer useful suggestions for how to write the citations in different situations. Your coach suggests you add these to your organization's style manual.

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