I just found this great article on the history of downtown retailers in my hometown, Columbia, Missouri.
While it is enjoyable reading and the photographs are intriguing, the article doesn’t contain a single citation of the source of the information. The article, “There & Gone,” was published on pages 30 and 31 in Veterinary Medical Review, Spring/Summer 2005. The writing is excellent, very easy to read, but there’s no author cited, so there’s no way to know who wrote it.
Nor is there a credit, a source or even a date on a single one of the photographs. Finally, there’s a mash-up of three or photographs.
In journalism, there are only a handful of reasons not to cite sources, i.e. the information is common knowledge (the Missouri River runs through Missouri), it is easily found in resource material (the population of Columbia recently hit 100,000), or the reporter saw/heard/experienced it him or herself (if you are at a fire and hear and explosion).
But in this article, information such as when K-Mart was at its zenith, it was the country’s No. 2 retailer. This information is not common knowledge, it not easily found, but it is possible the reporter knew this personally.
Why should anyone care about citing sources? It is hard to rely on information if you don’t know where it came from. For example, you don’t want health information from someone who is not qualified to provide such information. I’m not saying the information in the article is not correct. I’m just saying as a journalist, it’s my job to double-check it and to cite my sources.
For now, I’ll just enjoy reading this article in the hopes that I will be eventually be able to find sources to confirm what it reports.