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Elspeth 06-16-2008 02:50 PM

Citation of Sources in British Forum Threads

This policy is intended to clarify specific word usage and to verify what an author has written if there is a doubt.

The policy is not to be used as a strategy in shutting down a line of discussion, and members should bear in mind that although some sources are more reliable than others, even tabloid hacks get it right once in a while.

We've been noticing a disturbing trend recently where someone will claim to have read something and will be aggressively challenged to provide chapter and verse, and then, having done so, will be dismissively told that their source - whatever it is - is worthless and their argument is therefore rubbish. This policy was never intended to be used as a weapon; it's simply a means of clarifying what was actually said in books, articles, and interviews, by whom, and in what context. However, the forum moderators have been told by several members over the last few weeks and months that they've pretty much given up on the British forum because of the way the source citation policy is being abused and by the confrontational atmosphere in threads, particularly the ones about Charles, Camilla, Diana, and Kate Middleton.

A few details to help clarify this policy.

1. If you're basing an opinion or statement on something you read somewhere, and someone asks for the exact quote, you should try to provide it or say that you're unable to (in which case someone else might be able to help out). Please don't feel that your honesty is being questioned if someone asks for details about your statement that "I read this somewhere." We're just trying to get hold of the facts of the matter as a basis for the discussion. Equally, if someone else claims that a royal, or friend, relative or associate of a royal, made a particular statement in a published source and you disagree (or are unfamiliar) with this claim, by all means feel free to ask them for details about what they read or saw on TV and where they read or saw it. However, this should be reserved for cases where there's genuine doubt about what was actually said. We don't want people challenging every last statement for chapter and verse on published backup material in an attempt to intimidate other posters into backing down and shutting up. This is a discussion forum, not a court of law, and none of our members should have to feel that they're being put on trial or that their integrity is being called into question.

2. The most reliable sources are primary sources such as speeches and other official documents, transcripts of TV and radio interviews and other appearances, as well as scholarly books and articles where the author identifies the person who provided the information. Autobiographies combine the advantage of insider knowledge with the disadvantage that the author often has a self-serving agenda; information in these books should be judged in the context of other available information on the subject.

3. Since many people insist on anonymity when talking about royals, the identity of the source of information is often not known. This can occur in well-researched biographies as well as in tabloid newspapers and other gossip-type articles. The tabloid "A friend of the Prince told me" or "sources close to the Queen said" tactic, while less reliable than primary sources, is still acceptable as a source of information as long as it's made clear that it isn't a primary source and will therefore be less readily accepted by others. It also isn't appropriate to just dismiss any information from an anonymous source. Although it's less reliable, that doesn't automatically mean it's a complete fabrication. Critical thinking is vital when assessing the quality of the information provided under these conditions.

4. For the purposes of the discussions in these threads, verifiable published information in reputable sources is more valuable than claims of insider knowledge, either by newspaper reporters ("a close friend of Prince X told me...") or by posters ("I can't tell you how I know, but they aren't telling the truth in that book").

5. It's "The Daily Mail," not "The Dirty Mail" or "The D**** Mail" or any other variation on that theme. If you can't stand the idea of writing "The Daily Mail," then just say "The Mail." These derisory nicknames are giving the impression that this newspaper (as well as similar papers such as the Sun and the Express) is simply a source of misinformation and that nothing written in its pages is worth taking seriously. That isn't the case, and we'd prefer that each piece of information be treated on its individual merits and not dismissed out of hand just because it appears in a particular newspaper.

Mermaid1962 10-24-2008 01:23 PM

This clears things up. Thanks, Elspeth.

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