Monday, November 12, 2012

Consider Audience When Using Sources

This morning as I perused online news, I stumbled on a story from Fox News reporting that the creator and voice of Sesame Street’s character Elmo is under investigation for child sex abuse. In this online report Fox News provides a link to as the source for the story. 

At this point I became skeptical. I began to question the creditability of the news report not only because I was unfamiliar with, but also because the name sounds unreliable. 

I followed the link offered by Fox News to see what I could learn about The website appears to be a gossip site, featuring a “Got a Tip” text box in the top left corner of the home page.  Clearly, is asking its readers for gossip tips. I no longer believed the report.

As it turns out, CNN and MSNBC are also reporting on the story. So the scandal (as journalist say) may have ‘legs’ after all.
But that isn’t the point.

The point is that because Fox News cited as its source, I, the reader, doubted the information presented to me. Only after careful consideration of other sources did I confirm that the story may be credible (although low-brow).

When students write papers,they cannot presuppose that their audience will take the time that I did with the Elmo story (especially since embedded links aren’t possible in print form). Students must use credible sources when writing. Not only do the sources need to be credible, but they must sound creditable to the intended audience.

For example:

If a student were to write a serious paper exploring the rate of anorexia and poor body image mentality on college campuses, using a source like is a poor and insensitive idea even if the information gathered was pertinent.


If a student decided to write on the credibility of today’s political leaders and cited as a source of information, an unintended response from a reader maybe laughter. 

When gathering information, a student’s priority should not be the easiest place to get it. Instead, one should consider these tips from Purdue OWL.
"What type of sources does your audience value? If you are writing for a professional or academic audience, they may value peer-reviewed journals as the most credible sources of information. If you are writing for a group of residents in your hometown, they might be more comfortable with mainstream sources, such as Time or Newsweek. A younger audience may be more accepting of information found on the Internet than an older audience might be.”

Using these tips will undoubtedly improve the context and creditability of a paper. Fox News and other news outlets may benefit from Purdue’s advice as well.  

No comments:

Post a Comment