SourceWatch talk:Ground rules

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I propose the following set of ground rules. They are loosely based on the "five pillars" of Wikipedia. This page is meant to serve as the first point of entry for help on understanding SourceWatch policies and shouldn't be much of a departure from current ones. A full list of SourceWatch's policy pages can be found here. Please put comments below under "reactions." --Conor Kenny 13:14, 23 May 2007 (EDT)

These are the ground rules for contributing to SourceWatch or its projects, including Congresspedia. These rules are designed to help the SourceWatch community collaboratively build a high-quality encyclopedia. If your edits violate these rules, expect that they will be deleted. There are also standard practices you can expect from SourceWatch's staff editors and citizen sysops. If you'd like to get involved in helping administrate SourceWatch, you can become a sysop.

Only documented facts should be added to SourceWatch

  • Every factual assertion should have a source. Avoid using sources that are overly unreliable, unverifiable or unestablished. (See the referencing guidelines for more.)
  • The opinions of knowledgeable experts are often relevant and illuminating. However, any characterization, opinion or evaluation should be documented as the opinion of a named source, not a fact. Wikifying the source's name or affiliation to their SourceWatch profile is encouraged to give readers more background on the source.
  • Additions should be fair and not misleading. Language should be sober and accurate. (More on language and rhetoric on SourceWatch.)

Be constructive, not destructive

  • SourceWatch is a collaborative project of researchers, journalists and "regular" citizens. Make sure your edits add to the informative value of an article; i.e. do not remove content that is accurate, sourced and relevant, even if you don't like it. It is fine to contextualize or reorganize content or move it onto sub-articles or related articles, but the reorganization should in accordance with the article guidelines and should not be used to deemphasize content you don't like.
  • SourceWatch does not have a neutral point of view. Your additions to SourceWatch do not have to represent the facts behind all sides of a debate. This bias of content will hopefully be corrected by the additions of other editors, but you are free to only add content to articles that supports your own point of view.

Keep it relevant

SourceWatch is an encyclopedia of public affairs that documents the people, issues and groups shaping the public agenda both locally and globally. It is meant to help citizens worldwide discover the connections, money and agendas behind pundits and organizations; learn more about important policy and political issues; and hold public officials accountable by documenting their actions and statements. Edits to SourceWatch should reflect this. For more on what is and is not relevant to be on SourceWatch, read the full purpose statement.

Play nice

SourceWatch is a collaborative project of researchers, journalists and "regular" citizens. Certain practices allow us to work together better:

  1. If editing existing content (as opposed to adding new content), leave a note on the article's discussion page explaining your reasons. It is also helpful to leave a message on the talk page of the user whose content you are adding alerting them to the note on the article discussion page. (More on using discussion pages.)
  2. Don't engage in name calling or profanity when talking to other users and try to assume good faith in everyone.
  3. Don't be disingenuous or refuse to engage in discussions when having a disagreement with another user.
  4. When all else fails, appeal to one of the managing editors for assistance.

Be fair and accurate

Other information sources strive to be "objective" or "balanced." The term that SourceWatch uses to describe a similar goal is "fair and accurate." We realize that everyone has biases and blind spots (even ourselves), but we can nevertheless make a good faith effort to see beyond our own assumptions.

  • Fair means that we try to present all relevant information about a topic, not just the facts that happen to support our personal opinions and leanings.
  • Accurate means that we strive to eliminate errors of fact from SourceWatch. If, for example, someone was born on September 1, 1960, SourceWatch should not say that they were born on November 12, 1972. Some facts may be in dispute (and the question of how to interpret known facts is often an even greater challenge), but we should try to be precise and careful both in determining the facts before we add them to an article. We should also be diligent and happy to correct errors whenever they are brought to our attention.

SourceWatch is free – as in speech and as in beer

SourceWatch is free for anyone to participate in editing as long as they follow these rules. Its articles are not meant to be authoritative or have a "balance" – its biases inevitably reflect those of its staff and citizen editors – but as long as all the information is fair and sourced, it will serve as a useful resource for readers. The staff editors, however, will endeavor to add, organize and contextualize content in accordance with the article guidelines.

SourceWatch is free for anyone to read or use. Any ads on SourceWatch are moderated by outside brokers and do not cover the costs of running the site – the Center for Media and Democracy is a non-profit organization and will never make money off the project or charge for access. (More about the Center for Media and Democracy.) Further, under the GNU Free Documentation license, you can use SourceWatch content, for free, to produce other commercial and non-commercial works, as long as those works are also free for others to use. In order for this to be legal, content added to SourceWatch needs to be available through "fair use" or under other "copy-left" licenses.


Good work, Conor. I've added a section myself on the concepts of "fair and accurate." Also, once this policy has been reviewed by a few people, let's move the reactions to the talk page. --Sheldon Rampton 17:50, 31 May 2007 (EDT)

I didn't know what the term "wikifying" meant, so I assume other readers won't either. --Anne Landman

Looks good to me. My only question is whether the non-NPOV policy explanation should be explained a bit more. Right now it mentions bias of content and bias of individual editors, but I think SourceWatch's "bias of mission" (to expose hidden connections, conflicts, manipulations, money politics and the like) is most prominent. To me, the non-NPOV policy is necessary because of SW's mission. -- Diane Farsetta 14:58, 13 June 2007 (EDT)


I moved the content, with Sheldon's additions, to the actual page. I'll be tweaking it to address Anne and Diane's concerns later today.