SourceWatch:Article guidelines

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Article guidelines is a guideline page used on SourceWatch.
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The primary purpose of SourceWatch is to provide well-documented information about organizations, people and activities related to deceptive public relations campaigns, along with case studies examining the techniques used to manipulate public opinion and public policy. The guidelines below indicate the types of information that are most important to include in the articles you submit. If you don't have all of the information listed in these suggestions, go ahead and provide the information that you do have. Hopefully someone else will be able to fill in the remaining pieces. That's the beauty of collaborative research!

Organizations

An organization may be a PR firm, think tank, front group or a government agency. Articles about organizations should ideally be structured to include the following sections:

  • Short description: a sentence or two introducing the reader to why this organization is included in SourceWatch.
  • Controversies or Issues: this section, which may have many subsections, should highlight information about the organization that is not part of their own PR or generic description available anywhere. This section should provide information that informed citizens or consumers should know.
  • Funding: a list of who or what the organization funds or is funded by. This section might also include information on executive compensation and the known compensation of PR consultants or lobbyists.
  • Basic description: a brief summary of the organization's mission, history and activities.
  • History: a chronological listing, including the date the organization was founded (and disbanded), along with highlights of activities in which the organization has participated. If an activity warrants more description than you can summarize in a few sentences, create a separate article about the activity using the guidelines below.
  • Personnel: a list of individuals, past and present, who are either paid employees of the organization or who have collaborated with it on an ongoing basis.
  • Case studies: a list of examples of instances in which the organization has engaged in misleading research or other manipulations of information.
  • Contact information: Address, telephone, email, URLs and any other information that can be used to contact the organization itself.

People

Each article about a person should use his or her full name as the title. Ideally, it should also include the following additional information:

  • Date of birth and date of death (if applicable).
  • Relationship to organizations: a list of organizations for which the person has worked or with which he or she has been affiliated. If possible, include dates of employment, salary information, and job titles.
  • Relationship to funders: a list of foundations and other institutional funders that finance the individual's activities.
  • Case studies: examples of instances in which the individual has engaged in misleading research or other manipulations of information. Ideally, each case study should consist of a brief description with a wiki link to a separate article providing further details.
  • Contact information: address, telephone, email, URLs and any other information that can be used to contact the individual.

Activities

An activity could be a PR campaign, a publicity action (such as a news conference, a demonstration or a publicity stunt), or a news event (such as an oil spill or other crisis whose negative publicity a client is trying to control). Each article about activity should ideally contain the following information: People: a list of individuals who played significant roles

  • Time frame (a date or range of dates) when the activity occurred
  • Type of event (PR campaign, news event, etc.)
  • Organizations

Case Studies

A case study is an analysis of a deceptive or manipulative public relations activity. Examples might include creation of a front group or other use of the third party technique, spying on citizen groups, use of propagandistic rhetoric such as name-calling or glittering generalities, greenwashing, "partnerships" for the purpose of co-optation, or presenting biased and misleading scientific information. Case studies are an important part of propaganda analysis. When examining how some issue such as global warming has been manipulated, it isn't enough merely to show that global warming skeptics have received funding from an industry with a vested interest in global warming denial. The mere fact that people have a vested interest doesn't necessarily prove that they are wrong. It is important, therefore, to provide case studies that critique the improper methodology behind misleading arguments.

A quick reminder on references

Because SourceWatch's purpose is to expose manipulation of information and opinions about controversial issues, it is important to provide references to reports that document, as authoritatively as possible, the accuracy and fairness of your facts and analysis. Please try to keep rhetoric to a minimum, avoid speculation, and focus on providing verifiable facts. Each article should include a list of resources at the bottom: news stories, books, scientific studies, web sites, database or other documentary records that support the facts in the article and that can be consulted for further information. Whenever possible, each resource listed should include the following information:

  • publication date
  • name of author
  • name, city and state of publisher (e.g., New York Times, Tarcher/Putnam publishing)
  • URL (if the report is available online)

For a more detailed discussion of referencing in SourceWatch, see SourceWatch:References.