This is a self-service FAQ and policy for contributors who write news submissions via Yahoo Contributor Network for Yahoo News or Yahoo Voices only. This is not necessarily policy for other Yahoo websites.
Other News policies: General news policy, common errors and style| Sourcing and attribution policy | Factbox policy and format examples | Commentary policy
Correctly linking to sources
To link to a source, highlight a contextually related phrase and click the chain-link icon in the tool bar above the body text field. Paste your link into the blank. Then click the “x” to save the link. Do not merely hit “return” or “enter.” That might not save your link.
Relying on multiple and primary sources
We understand the need and value in using media sources (especially in commentary and blog pieces). But when you can, you should use primary sources (i.e., non-media sources) to point out information. You should also use several and varied sources.
You are not allowed to take others’ work and rewrite and restructure it. We ask you to use primary sources because they are a rich and straightforward reservoir of information. If you’re covering a specific beat, we encourage you to compile a list of websites to visit often. Sign up for email alerts and newsletters. Subscribe to blogs. This will get you up-to-date information and provide you with a great list of sources.
What are examples of primary sources?
– Government or candidates’ websites and blogs.
– Organizations’ and companies’ websites and blogs.
– Medical and scientific studies.
– News releases. (These should used in concert with other sources and not as your only source of information.)
– Newsworthy Facebook posts and Twitter messages that are specifically related to your topic. (These should also be used as supplementary sources, and the social media you cite should be from someone or something in your story — not just someone commenting on the topic.)
Using the correct sources
When you are attributing a source, make sure you are citing the correct original source. For example, if the New York Times runs an Associated Press story, and you cite it, the source is the Associated Press; the source is NOT the New York Times. Also, do not say, for example: “… according to the Associated Press on Yahoo News.” Just Associated Press is fine.
Avoiding anonymous sources
A submission can be declined because it contains anonymous sources or sources with first names only. Anonymous sources are only allowed when the source would be placed in a dangerous or compromising situation. If you cannot release your source’s full name, please indicate that in an explanatory note to the editor at the top of your submission. That will not, however, guarantee that your submission will be accepted. Understand that removing a significant portion of your submission could make it unpublishable, however.
Citing, attributing and sourcing quotes
The sources for all quotes must be cited at the location of the quote in your submission. Direct quotes (whether spoken or written) must be placed in quote marks, and you must cite quotes so that it is clear to your reader where you got your quote from.
For example: “I love my job,” Christopher Dodd said, according to the New York Times. “I always have, and still do.” If the quote was told to you directly, you do not have to cite the source. It’s helpful if you include that information in a note to the editor at the top of your submission. A caveat: It’s not necessary to cite EVERY quote if subsequent quotes come from the same source.
Use common sense, but make sure that it’s clear to readers where you got your quotes from, especially with the first quote. Further, use the hyperlinking tool in the text editor to link contextually related words (such as “New York Times” in the example above) to the exact URL from which you obtained the quote. Do this on first reference only. Do not merely paste a URL into your story. You must link words using the hyperlink tool.
Avoid your own content as a source
Do not link to your own content as a primary source of information — or a “need-to-know” source. This is circular sourcing. It doesn’t help readers, and it raises questions about your evidence. You can, however, link to your related content as “nice-to-know” sources that are related but incidental to story.
Attributing sources correcting
When do I need to explicitly attribute a source? When don’t I need to attribute?
Remember that, in addition to linking to sources, you must also attribute sources. By attribution, we mean you must clearly and explicitly tell readers where you are getting your information. This is especially important for a couple types of information and news.
Don’t assume a reader knows something. We will let you know if you’re being overly cautious. Editors will make the final determination whether a source needs to be attributed.
Below we are going to tackle three areas of attribution: (1) do not attribute; (2) it’s OK to attribute and link, but it’s not necessary; and (3) you MUST attribute to your sources and link.
(1) Do not explicitly attribute in these instances — it’s just weird:
Commonly known/understood information. If a fact, quote, event or occurrence has seeped into public consciousness enough, there is no need to explicitly attribute the source. And in most cases, you shouldn’t attribute — because it reads awkwardly. A couple common instances:
(a) Common knowledge about historical events. For example, there is no need to attribute to a source the date of the Pearl Harbor attack. Attribution is not needed here and, in fact, it’s clumsy: “Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan on Dec. 7, 1941, according to the History Channel.” Well, no duh. This is obvious and well-known, and there is no need to cite the History Channel. Here are other examples that should give you an indication of when attribution to a source is not needed: that there was a sex scandal involving Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky; that the Soviet Union and the United States were involved in the Cold War; that Mitt Romney is a Mormon; that William Shakespeare wrote “Hamlet.” It’s all well-known information.
(b) Recent and well-known information. For example, there is no need to attribute to a source that President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address on Jan. 24. Attribution is not needed here: “CNN reports that President Barack Obama spoke about the economy and jobs in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night.” It was widely accessible and available to people; thus, there’s no need to attribute or cite CNN. Here are other examples that should give you an indication of when attribution is not needed: that a candidate won a political race, that Mitt Romney released his tax returns; that Newt Gingrich is upset about coverage of his affairs; that certain teams are going to the Super Bowl. Again, it’s all well-known information.
Unrelated information. Don’t link to or attribute sources that provide essentially unrelated information. Examples: If you’re writing about Barack Obama, don’t link the words “Barack Obama” to the front page of his website, if it has nothing to do with your story. If you’re writing about the Florida primary, don’t link the word “Florida” to an encyclopedic website about Florida.
(2) It’s OK to attribute, but not necessary, in this instance:
Nice-to-know information. These are bits of information that are incidental and related to the thrust of your piece, but they’re not necessary. Your submission would survive without them, but you’re giving readers additional reading material. In these instances, you can link to another website, but you don’t have to attribute it explicitly. For example, the following passage was far down in a contributor’s story about the GOP presidential race: “Romney’s albatross is Massachusetts health care. Gingrich’s albatross is Freddie Mac. Both these men are known factors, and have been thoroughly vetted.”
It’s true that “Massachusetts health care” and “Freddie Mac” are related to the story of the GOP race, but, in this instance, they weren’t main, driving sources for the piece. Editors would have been OK with the contributor not linking, either. But because they go to specific sites that discuss health care for Romney and Freddie Mac for Gingrich, they are “nice-to-know” sources. Importantly, the contributor linked to specific sources about Massachusetts health care and Freddie Mac — not just front pages of websites or unrelated websites.
Important: With any “nice to know” information, you can hyperlink a contextually related phrase to a website — without explicitly attributing the source by name. This gives readers more information. Simply, it’s “nice to know” the source.
(3) Here are instances in which you MUST explicitly attribute:
In the older policy, we called these “need to know” sources. This still holds true: There are times when a source must be known and you must attribute it. Here are three common instances: breaking news, little-known facts and quotes.
Stories or information broken by a news outlet. If a media outlet (which would also include, say, an independent blogger) breaks a news story, you need to explicitly cite and link to that source. This is giving credit where credit is due. You should be linking to media outlets that break the story. (Avoid linking to other sites that are merely reporting that another organization broke the news.) For example, the Washington Post may break the news that Obama is planning on sending specific legislation to Congress. Only the Post knows this. They uncovered it. You must attribute and link. However, no one broke the news that Obama gave a speech to Congress. There is no need to attribute.
Caveat: As time goes by and the broken news story seeps into public consciousness, it’s not necessarily important to follow the rule above. For example, when Yahoo Sports broke the story about alleged football recruiting violations at the University of Miami last fall, it would be necessary to attribute the information to Yahoo Sports. But now, while it’s courteous to do so, it is not a requirement.
Little-known or esoteric facts. As noted above, it’s a well-known fact that Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan on Dec. 7, 1941. That’s obvious, and there’s no need to attribute it. But if you’re presenting little-known or esoteric facts that aren’t common knowledge (e.g., the names of the ships that were destroyed or information about particular survivors), you should attribute the information to your sources. The same goes for recent stories. For example, let’s say the key information in a story you are writing is that Barack Obama will be unveiling a plan to tackle joblessness. You should attribute that information. This is incorrect: “On Monday, President Barack Obama will unveil a multi-pronged approach to solving the nation’s unemployment woes.” This is correct: “On Monday, President Barack Obama will unveil a multi-pronged approach, according to the Associated Press, to solving the nation’s unemployment woes.”
These types of sources usually appear in your first few graphs. But, in factbox formats, they also appear throughout. If you’re introducing a new standalone fact from a new source several paragraphs deep into your submission, this is a need-to-know source. You must explicitly attribute it.
Quotes. Generally, all quotes need to be attributed and linked to. The only time you don’t is when it’s a VERY commonly known quote. Examples of VERY commonly known quotes: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” You may need to say who said the quote — but you don’t need to link to a source that proves it.
How often should you attribute within the same piece?
If you are referencing multiple pieces of information from the same source, do not link to it again; however, while using common sense, you should attribute, by name, the source again — if the subsequent citations are reasonably far away from your original attribution.