Best Practices in Trauma Reporting

Providing accurate and complete attribution is mandatory in any news article, of course, even long narratives. When using the narrative journalism format, some journalists provide additional sourcing information at the end (or elsewhere) of the article rather than interrupt the narrative flow of the storytelling. For example, in “The Short Life of Viktor Alexander Matthey” (2002), reporter Matthew Reilly added a section at the end of the article called, “Notes on Sources.” This section explains that more than 200 interviews were conducted and hundreds of pages of documents were reviewed.

If readers wondered how Reilly knew what the scene looked like on October 29, 2000, when Vicktor was taken to the hospital, the source section explains that the description comes “from interviews with witnesses, an affidavit of probable cause filed by State Police Nov. 8, 2000, and prosecution briefs.” The “Notes on Sources” section explains where other information used in the article came from. Another example from the source section: “Descriptions of the conditions at the Tulimov home in Busse, Russia, when their children were taken by the state are from interviews with Russian journalists who were present, from a videotape made by a regional television crew and from an interview with Olga Tulimova, the children’s mother. All of the interviews were conducted in May 2000.”

In a similar example, “Rape in a Small Town” (2004) provided a section on sources at the end of the article. But first the newspaper explained how it came to some of its decisions. The rape survivor and her family, the newspaper explained, debated among themselves about whether they wanted their full names to be used. Like many news publications, the newspaper had a policy of not identifying victims of first-degree sexual assault. “In the end,” the newspaper explained, “they [the family members] agreed that Laura would be identified by her first name and that her parents’ names would not be used, to protect her from identification by inference.” The paper said the family felt that this agreement would afford them some privacy even though many in the community where the crime occurred already knew who they were. In the “Sources” section, a summary of Bramson’s reporting organized by subject was provided. What follows is a sample from that section. “Sentencing on Jan. 14, 2003: Bramson attended the sentencing. Laura and her parents’ reactions and thoughts about that day were discussed in extensive personal interviews; observations about that day also provided in an interview with school nurse Marilyn Kelley.”