An Intelligencer's Guide to: Circular Reporting
Updated: Aug 21, 2021
Circular reporting is where a piece of information appears to come from numerous sources, but in reality is derived from only a single source. This problem occurs in a variety of fields, including information gathering, journalism, and scholarly research, and is often the way fake news is spread. Sadly, the need for instant gratification often hinders the search for truth. People would rather know something instantly, instead of ensuring the certainty of the 'facts' they share.
The above example is a classic case of circular reporting. Imagine that Website One is the origin. As a single source and a single piece of information, its reliability and credibility are questionable. We might grade Website One as F5 as there is no basis to judge the source's reliability (F), while the information is improbable being unconfirmed, not logical in itself and contradicted by other information on the subject (5). To be grade higher, Website One would need to be corroborated. Enter Website Two. The author came across the entry on Website One and for whatever reason - perhaps the information simply accorded with their view - did not check the 'facts' but simply copied and pasted something similar onto Website Two. Worryingly, Website One could now cite Website Two as the source of the original information. Not only would this be circular reporting but it also could be the source of fake news.