Saturday, April 18, 2015

Examiner.com by the numbers

There are many different online publishers for the freelance writer. Many, but not all, accept news content. Some ask the writer to stay within a specific category, others hand out specific assignments, and some allow the writer a free hand to craft whatever content they wish.

Online freelance writers generally write for more than one publisher. If not, then it's likely that they've at least tried a number of others and settled on the one or ones, they like best. That means that any group of online writers represents a wealth of first hand experience about many different sites which accept and pay for content submitted by freelancers.
For what it's worth, then, here is my experience with and analysis of Examiner.com as an publisher.

I've been writing with Examiner for over two years. Examiner.com assigns each writer a specific category or topic in addition to a region. The writer can select the topic from a lengthy list on the Examiner application form, or even suggest a new topic. When I applied, I asked to write about Forests and submitted a sample article about listening to woodland bird songs. My region was the nearest listed city to my home, Manchester, New Hampshire. Examiner accepted my application, but asked me instead to write about bird watching within the recreation category.
I was initially attracted to Examiner by the page view bonus rate which, at the time, was about $9.50 per 1000 page views. (Currently, it's tracking about $6.65 per 1000 page views for me, but it varies depending upon a number of factors). Of course, higher page view rates only matter if their are enough page views to matter. Examiner has also announced a pay rate change beginning in May. The new rate will be tiered based upon quality of the articles, amount of promotion done by the author, and a handful of other criteria designed says Examiner to reward higher quality writers with higher payments. We'll see how that goes... I am cautiously optimistic.

One of the good things about Examiner, for me, is that it allows slide shows and videos to be directly appended to articles. If I am talking about a particular birdwatching location, I can include up to 20 photos of that location to add depth to the reader experience., for example. Bird watching, in particular lends itself to pictures and video.

As with Associated Content, it took a little while for my articles to start getting significant page views. Examiner does not currently track page views by article, so it is difficult to say how popular any particular article may be. New articles can be judged by the relative increase in daily page views when it is published, but it is difficult to judge the quality of specific evergreen articles.
I found that after a brief learning curve, I began getting decent page views. I'm sure much of it is built on the performance of my library of articles and photos. How much do I earn there? That's the bottom line question that everyone asks. Here's the answer:

For calendar year 2011, I am averaging $17.47 for every article that I have submitted this year in my local bird-watching topic. I also regularly receive free bird-related books for review from several publishers, and last year, I was invited by the Jamaica Tourist Board to spend a week bird-watching in Jamaica and staying at several eco-lodges on the island in order to allow me to write about the many bird-watching opportunities of Jamaica. That included free air travel, food, in country travel, and all expenses. I've also been contacted by local bird watching event organizers who have invited me to attend birding cruises and other outings in my official capacity to report on the events. While these extras don't put money in my pocket, they definitely merit entries on the plus side of the ledger when I tally the benefits of writing for Examiner. Theses extras also help provide me with a rich assortment of contacts and experiences to write about, making the job easier.

The fact that Examiner writers focus solely on a specific topic makes the writers more visible to event organizers and groups involved in that topic than sites that allow writers to be generalists, writing about a variety of topics, in my experience.

I have added two more categories to my Examiner account. I asked to write about Oceans at the national level and they invented the National Maritime Headlines Examiner title for me. national titles at Examiner focus more on news and are exposed to the national audience rather than a regional audience. Both appear on search engines with seemingly equal rankings, though. national titles seem to have a higher upside potential. I can hit more than 10,000-20,000 page views in a day with a good national topic, whereas local topics generally do not pull those kinds of quick numbers unless they happen to be of national interest on a popular news topic. However, the local articles detailing local birding venues, species profiles, and the like, have longer shelf-lives and will pull viewers over a much longer period of time than flash in the pan national news articles. The result is that for my Maritime Headlines Examiner position, I am averaging $10.71 for each article published in calendar 2011.

I also have a Manchester Green Living Examiner title that is relatively new and has little content thus far. For that title, I am only earning a non-viable $1.45 per article this year as an overall average (with only three articles submitted, year to date). That does not compare at all favorably to my Environmental Issues News beat at the Yahoo! Contributor Network which offers $15 guaranteed per article upfront, plus $1.15 per 1000 page views published at Yahoo! News. If it is a newsworthy topic, or fits within the Y!CN beat guidelines for allowable environmental issues evergreen content, I publish it there, instead of Examiner. If, however, I were to visit a wind farm and take a few dozen good photos, I might be more inclined to publish at Examiner, because of the, in my opinion, superior rich media options. I remain confident, however, that as I increase my library and following for this Examiner title, my earnings per article will grow.

Overall, page views at Examiner were lower than at Y!CN or Y! before the Google algorithm change. I haven't noticed a significant drop-off at Examiner since the change, but we all know what's happened to Y!CN and Y! page view numbers (although this differs for each individual).

Examiner requires writers to publish one new article each month in order to keep their accounts fully active and to continue earning page view royalties on existing content. Examiner also pays a generous bounty for referring new writers through a referral link. Here's my referral link if anyone is interested in signing up and giving it a try; Apply to write at Examiner.com.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Study Reveals Three Keys to Attracting Twitter Followers

There's little point in writing news for the web, if no one reads what you write. There are many ways for online readers to find your work. Let's take a look at Twitter. For most of what you post, only a small percentage of your Twitter followers will click through to read an article that you link. This can be influenced by eye-catching titles, your reputation for delivering on the promise of your Tweet (with relevant, high quality content), and a host of other factors. Even so, it is likely to be a small number.

Why does Twitter matter then? For those that do take an interest in your article, it is an easy way for them to share the article with their friends and followers who may share a similar interest. It is a way of amplifying your reach beyond the people to whom you have direct access. In best case scenarios, your article can go viral and be shared tens of thousands of times (or more).

It all starts, of course, with those people who choose to follow you on Twitter. With a few caveats, the more followers you have, the more likely you are to reach people who are interested enough to click through and read your article.

There are many theories on the best way to attract followers, but unless you're a highly visible celebrity willing to have a public meltdown in cyberspace, Georgia Tech researchers have identified three key Tweeting behaviors that lead to increased numbers of followers.
  1. Don't worry, be happy.
  2. Don't fill your Twitter stream with information about yourself, give your followers information that makes a difference to their lives.
  3. Use fewer hashtags.
To expound upon that list a bit, the researchers found that users who more often posted with a positive message gained more followers than those who posted negativity. Hypothetically, then, a title like "Few will survive upcoming zombie apocalypse," a negative title, would attract fewer new followers than "You can be a zombie apocalypse survivor," a more positive spin on the same topic.

Second, although your family may want to keep up to date on your daily tribulations and successes, few strangers are that interested in you, unless you're one of the aforementioned self-destructing celebrities. Your followers will be less likely to share a Tweet that you've got luxury box tickets at Fenway Park for the Yankees- Red Sox game than, perhaps, a Tweet that provides useful information like "Fenway Park tickets, which seats offer the best value for your money?"

Finally, don't use too many hashtags. Use them to tie your tweets to larger events or breaking news stories, but don't crowd your posts with as many hashtags as you can fit in. For whatever reason, the Georgia Tech study showed that overuse of hashtags resulted in fewer new followers when compared to a more conservative usage.

Obviously, this is a brief overview of the findings of the Georgia Tech study on gaining Twitter followers. You can read the complete study and learn more details on building a Twitter following at this link.

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are you plagiarizing?

Just because you're not copying someone else's work exactly as written, doesn't mean that you're not guilty of plagiarism. As writers who often rely on other sources for facts pertinent to our own news reporting, we must have an accurate understanding of exactly what is and what isn't plagiarism. Rather than relying on my own interpretation of the term plagiarism, let's look at a couple of independent sources.

The Instrument of Judicial Governance from the University of North Carolina defines plagiarism as "deliberate or reckless representation of another's words, thoughts, or ideas as one's own without attribution..." I added the bold for emphasis.

USLegal.com defines the term as follows:
"The intentional or unintentional use of another's words or ideas without acknowledging this use consitutes plagiarism..." Simply enough, right? As long as you, at some point in your article say what you've 'borrowed,' you're covered, right? Wrong.

USlegal.com goes on to say: "There are four common forms of plagiarism:
  • Duplication of another author's words without quotation marks and accurate references or footnotes.
  • The duplication of another author's words or phrases with footnotes or accurate references, but without quotation marks.
  • The use of another author's ideas in paraphrase without accurate references or footnotes.
  • Submitting a paper in which exact words are merely rearranged even though footnoted."
Again the bold is mine for emphasis of certain points. Let's go over these four forms of plagiarism, one by one. Then, I'll give four examples of published news articles reporting the same event to help understand how to follow these points in practice.

The first of these four, I think, is pretty clearly understood. Copying another person's work without crediting them is wrong and constitutes plagiarism. Few would have issue with that.

The second may be less widely known. Most might say, ok, I forgot quotation marks (or didn't know I needed them), but I correctly credited the source of the material I used, so it isn't plagiarism. Not quite, the purpose of the quotation marks is to set aside the borrowed material, so that readers know exactly what was borrowed from your cited source and what is your own creation. In the age of Internet, it may be permissible to use other forms to delineate exactly what was taken.

An indented bit of text, with a different background color, font, or size that is intentionally made to appear as though it were cut and pasted from another source, could, arguably substitute for quotation marks, so long as the source is properly attributed, for example.

The exact beginning and end of the quoted text should, however, be made unambiguously clear to the reader. Without quotation marks, the reader cannot tell what part of your writing is yours and what, exactly, is someone else's creation.

The third bullet point is where I, unfortunately, see either much ignorance, confusion or disregard for the definition of plagiarism. It is plagiarism to read an article written by someone else, and rewrite it in your own words, without fully, specifically, and properly citing that source, according to the USLegal.com definition. Reading a New York Times report that says:
"Among the more than 80 people that activist groups reported killed by rockets and bombs through the day, two were Western journalists, the veteran American war correspondent Marie Colvin, who had been working for The Sunday Times of London, and a young French photographer, RĂ©mi Ochlik." Does not give you liberty to write in your article: "A French photographer and a Sunday Times of London reporter were killed during fighting in Syria," without directly citing the source of that specific piece of information. Furthermore, citing the NYT article once at the beginning of your piece does not give you leave to paraphrase the entire article or major sections of it, or to paraphrase it in multiple places throughout your article without further attribution. For example, on the first page of the above-referenced NYT piece, you'll find three specific references to information that the authors gleaned from one or more Reuters reports, as well as other citations for other facts and statements that they used.

Lastly, the fourth bullet of the USLegal.com definition tells us that we can't shirk our responibility to use quotation marks and specific attribution, just by rearraging the words. If some wrote "The police apprehended the suspect at 4:30 pm, on Saturday." You can't simply write "On Saturday, at 4:30 pm, police apprehended the suspect," without quotation marks and accurate references or footnotes. That still represents the original author's idea and words, not yours.

Here are examples of the same event reported by four separate sources.
1) WMUR report of a harp seal on a Hampton, New Hampshire beach published at 2:33 pm on February 19th
2) A report of the same event published at Patch.com published on February 20th
3) My own report of the event at Examiner.com published late in the day on February 19th 
4) A report from Foster's Daily Democrat published on February 21st

(Note: Go read them, but don't leave nasty comments accusing anyone of anything, please. My purpose in writing this isn't to call anybody out, but to educate based on some convenient examples that I had on hand.)

Of these four, the WMUR report was the first published. I was at the scene and have first-hand knowledge that residents attending the event contacted WMUR. From the wording of the WMUR report, it also appears that the author also contacted The New England Aquarium for additional information although they did not specify that source by name.

The second example needs a bit more scrutiny. The first paragraph, appears fine from a palgiarism perspective. There's a sentence containing two factual statements and a proper attribution to the WMUR article that I used as example #1. Note, however, that the Patch.com article says the seal "washed up" on the beach, which is a factually inaccurate assumption by the author based on the WMUR report that  the seal "was out of the water."

The first sentence of the next paragraph at Patch.com violates the second bullet point of the USLegal.com definition of plagiarism. It is a word for word copy of the statement made by WMUR without quotation marks, but properly referenced. This gives the impression that the Patch.com author created more of that sentence's wording than "the television station said." The rest of the Patch.com article's second paragraph is a combination of direct quotes and paraphrasing of the WMUR article's third paragraph. The Patch.com author has done nothing original here except to change one perfectly good WMUR sentence into a fragment, and change the source of the pronouncement of a healthy diagnosis that WMUR attributed to The New England Aquarium, to the volunteer (from the Blue Ocean Society) who never, in fact, spoke to WMUR before the WMUR article was initially published.

The first sentence of the third paragraph of the Patch.com article is lifted directly from the WMUR article's second paragraph although the Patch.com "author" changed the word "common" from WMUR's report to "not unusual" in his. He also dropped the words "when they want sleep or" from the WMUR report, otherwise copying their sentence verbatim. There is no attribution at all for the ideas or the copied words in the third paragraph of the Patch.com article. The next Patch.com "sentence," (I use the term lightly, since it is actually a sentence fragment) is another assumption by the author guessing at the emotional state of the onlookers that WMUR said were present. The remainining sentence and a half of the Patch.com article are original, linking two earlier articles by the same author on related topics (although I can't vouch for the originality of those two linked articles).

Plagiarism? According to the USLegal definition, unequivocably. Was the author aware that he was plagiarizing? Given the grammatical errors in the article, one could argue that he was unaware of his crime, which, given USLegal's "intentional or unintentional" verbiage, would make no difference in court, by the way.

The third example is one that I wrote published after the WMUR report. It however, contains much information not contained in the WMUR report, based on my personal knowledge and first-hand reporting, as I personally witnessed the events and spoke directly to the volunteer from the Blue Ocean Society who was alerted to the seal's presence by the New England Aquarium. There are no phrases or ideas lifted from the WMUR report. Paraphrased information from The New England Aquarium is properly cited. The facts in the final paragraph were written from my own knowledge, but since they may not be common knowledge to a majority of readers, in retrospect, they should have been cited from some independent source, to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

The fourth article, from Foster's Daily Democrat, was written by someone who was clearly not present at the location. It is quite possible that the author of this article was alerted to the situation by reading one of the previously published articles, but they contacted original sources, spoke to a named individual at The New England Aquarium extensively as well as the Blue Ocean Society volunteer. Although this article uses sources common to other articles, the New England Aquarium and Patty Adell, it is clearly original. The Foster's reporter may (or may not) have gotten the idea for the story from another published source, but he did his own reporting and did not simply rehash any existing articles that he may have read. 

You Don't Have to be On the Scene to Write About It

These examples consist two articles created by people involved directly at the time the reported event was occurring (one at the scene, one by telephone), and two created by people who apparently learned of the event afterward. You don't have to be at the scene to write about an event, but you do have to do more than repeat what someone else has already written, whether or not you paraphrase their exact words - even if you cite your source.

If you create even a properly attributed article based on other published sources and every sentence refers to another source, then, quite aside from issues of palgiarism, you should ask yourself exactly what you are bringing to the table. What are you offering the reader?

It might be a unique analysis of the events, a comparison of the event's coverage by several different sources, additional information not contained in previous reports, a more complete report than is found elsewhere by amalgamating information from a variety of sources, or anything else that makes your article uniquely your own and of unique value to the reader rather than a simple rewrite of someone else's work. Even if your editor allows simple rewrites to slide by, it's not your work and you have no business publishing it to steal traffic from the original source.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yahoo.com Front Page Feature

Recently, I had an article of mine featured for several days on the front page of Yahoo.com. It was included in "Editor's Picks" and "Today on Yahoo!" The first appears at the bottom of every news page or article on Yahoo! and the second appears in multiple places including the top, featured position at the home page of Yahoo.com.

I get two questions most frequently from other writers about it. 1) How did you get featured? 2) How many views did it receive?

First, let me say that I've had editors from the Yahoo! Contributor Network (Y!CN) pitch articles of mine for the front page before. At least one made it there previously, but had a shorter run of just a few hours.

Getting featured can depend on luck to some extent. If you have just written about a topic that suddenly becomes very newsworthy and your article is relevant, editors may drop it in to take advantage of the timeliness of  the issue. Then there's always the other breaking news factor. If aliens land on the lawn of the White House, then your article about the National Collegiate Cheerleading Championships might get pushed aside for front page feature consideration.

In any case, it generally takes a body of high quality work that demonstrates your ability to write accurate, interesting and original material. In two of the four cases where my work was pitched to the front page, an editor at Y!CN contacted me in advance and offered a topic that he thought might be a good fit for the front page. For another, I had just submitted an article and it just happened to coincide with a planned press conference by President Obama on the same topic. Another was suggested to me for front page consideration, but missed because the angle I took was a bit too controversial.

Once, an article was suggested, but in doing the research, I found that the suggested premise, though widely accepted by media outlets and various web secondary sources, was inaccurate. I wrote it up as something of a myth-busting article which provided better sources for that real information. It wasn't the fun, human interest piece for which the front page decision makers were hoping.

In short, I don't know of any sure-fire way to get a piece featured on the front page at Yahoo.com except to write well consistently, attract the attention of editors with the quality of your work (and/or by becoming a Featured Contributor), and to be willing to accept difficult assignments that may or may not pan out despite an investment of research time and effort. Also be prepared for one or more title changes and additional editorial scrutiny of any article that is being considered for the front page. I think Editor's Picks, Today on Yahoo! and the text news listing all used different titles for my recent feature, none of which were passed by me before publication (which is fine by me).

As for the second question, my most recent featured article received about 1 million views in the first 24 hours, and about another million over the next 48 hours and during a repeat feature the following weekend. Those who write for Y!CN know the page view bonus rate for Y! News and can calculate that the earnings from that single article went into the thousands of dollars.

In addition to the 2 million page views, it was posted to Facebook by over 13,000 users, Tweeted over 1500 times resulting in more than 45,000 page views via Twitter, and shared by 245 people on Linked In. The article itself was also mentioned and linked by The Huffington Post, Forbes online, and a host of other sites. CNN did a feature piece on the same topic 3-4 days after mine appeared on Yahoo! all of which is helping the article gain about 1000 readers per day long after it passed out of the main stream's attention span.

I'll also note that it was copied in its entirety and otherwise plagiarized by more websites and blogs than I care to mention. That comes with the territory, so learn how to enforce your rights under the DMCA.

I've heard of other Yahoo! feature pieces from Y!CN freelancers getting even more page views than mine by a wide margin. I've also heard of others not doing as well.

Finally, I know some writers don't like to say which of their articles do very well for fear of copycats going after their topics, but I've always felt that the Internet is a very big place. It also helps that I tend to write current events type issues that have high, but fleeting popularity rather than evergreen material. At any rate, here's the article that received the front page feature position for a number of days at Yahoo.com. Feel free to share a link to the original on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, your blog, or anywhere else. I get paid by the page view and every one counts. ...and don't forget to follow this blog using one of the following option in the margins.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Good Journalistic Advice from the Howard 100 News Team

For those with satellite radio subscriptions who listen to the Howard Stern Show, the Howard 100 News team actually gives a solid piece of journalistic advice, albeit in a humorous fashion. The tag line they use in one of their promos is "If you mother says she loves you, check her sources."

While I take it on faith that my mother loves me, after all she is giving first hand testimony to that fact, when it comes to news-worthy leads, I check everything. Recently, for example, It was suggested that I write a news story about October 5th being the most popular birthday in the USA by the News Director of the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He generally provides me with pretty solid leads, sometimes offering me contact info. for specific news-worthy leads and suggesting article topics that he'd like to pitch to the Yahoo! News front page folks.

Sometimes they pan out and sometimes they don't (and sometimes they require extraordinary effort on my part: "If you can find someone who was present at 'X' event 60 years ago, we'd like to publish an interview with them."). That's great, I am thankful and lucky to have such a good relationship with the person who decides whether to pay me for an article. I pursue the leads offered to the best of my ability whether I think they are likely to be profitable to me or not, often investing many hours in research before I really know whether there is a story there or not.

The October 5th birthday story was no different. I accepted the challenge and went to work, assuming that the premise was true. Indeed, at first it seemed that every web reference agreed. October 5th is the most popular date for birthdays in the USA because it coincides with a New Year's Eve conception, they said. Hmmm. I was born on October 2nd, which is certainly within the big part of the bell curve for those babies conceived on the same date as those born on October 5th. So I asked my mother, "Is it likely that I was conceived on New Year's Eve?"

"Yes," she replied that she was almost certain of that.

I noticed, however, that one source was cited by most of the websites and news stations which were reporting October 5th as the most popular birthday. Those that didn't cite a specific source had specific language or numbers that were too similar to those cited by that same, singular source to be coincidental.

Furthermore, the data upon which that original source based its claim was unavailable. It would have been easy to cite the same source used by such news outlets as NBC4-TV out of Washington, D.C., and all the others, but one source without the backing evidence just doesn't pass my standard of reliability even though that was the storyline requested by the News Director. So I asked myself, who might have actual birth record data and statistics? The government, for one. So I did a search restricted to .gov  sites and came up with the CDC data contained in my report which was inconclusive but tended to cast further doubt on the October 5th meme.

Looking further, I found a 2006 study by a Harvard professor who listed all 366 days of the year (including leap year's February 29th) in order of popularity, based on a study of many years of birth records. His data was more in line with the CDC data and was quite different than the source used by almost every website that talked about the most popular birthday in the U.S. I could have, and should have, gone one step further and called the Harvard professor who did the study and asked to see his data for a solid answer to the question, but by this time, my deadline was fast approaching and it didn't seem possible to make the contact and review the details of the study in time to publish the story at all.

With three sources in hand, but without the raw data to confirm their findings, I cannot say definitively upon which date the most popular birthday falls. I can say, however, that the October 5th date is pretty doubtful, and that's the story I went with. You can read it in its entirety at Yahoo! News by clicking the link below.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Libel revisited

First, let me say for the record, that I am not a lawyer or legal expert, and this is not intended as legal advice, but as an example of and commentary on best (and worst) practices.

I wrote about jumping to conclusions when reporting about the actions of specific persons or companies. I said that you can report what someone else said about the person as long as you say that that person said it and don't do anything to validate the statement. I didn't mention, and I should have, an important exception to that rule. If you know or have reason to believe that the statement is false, but print it anyway without acknowledging that you know or suspect it to be false, then you can still be held responsible for any damage to a person's reputation (or business) resulting from the publication of those statements.

Here's a case where the NY Post is being sued for just such an action. In this case, the NY Post cited unnamed sources "close to the defense" who made very damaging statements about the woman who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault. The NY Post apparently accepted the word of people with every reason to lie in order to discredit the woman. If they did additional research to verify the claims, there was no  mention of that in their report.

Without any attempt to verify or qualify the statements, it could be argued that the NY Post is validating their credibility. In fact, as CNN points out in the linked story above, the NY Post article specifically said the woman was "doing double duty as a prostitute, collecting cash on the side from male guests, The Post has learned." That statement in particular shows that the NY Post believes the accusations and strongly implies that they have investigated to back them up. It adds validity to the allegations backed by the reputation of the NY Post.

Anyone can go out and find someone to make stuff up about someone else for the sake of getting a sensational headline. That doesn't absolve a reporter or a publisher of their responsiblity if there's good reason to doubt the veracity of the statements. In this case, the allegations made involved a number of third parties, who presumably could have been tracked down and questioned by the NY Post, but apparently weren't.

A paper can be wrong, but they need to show that they undertook reasonable precautions to make sure what they were printing was true. If you actually go a step farther and treat third party allegations as facts that you have verified, you'd better make very sure that you did verify them. Perhaps, the NY Post did that in this case and will be vindicated, who knows. Better reporting could have prevented the situation in the first place.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When to use your prior articles as primary source material

I've covered the difference between primary and secondary sources in previous posts and told you that you should always strive to use a primary source rather than someone else's reporting of that source material. Obviously, an original interview that you conduct is a primary source. Don't overlook that fact if you later write on a similar topic. You can cite the expert you interviewed with a link back to that interview as a primary source for future articles.

This is an exception to the rule. Ordinarily, I think linking back to one of your articles as a source of factual information for a news report is not a good idea if the information you're citing was originally drawn from another source. In other words, many articles (especially news articles) are themselves secondary or even tertiary sources.

If your previous article said, "The FBI, on their website, are asking for the public's aid in locating Whitey Bolger." That's a secondary source with the FBI website being the primary source. If you wrote "ABC News reported that the FBI Director asked for the public's help..." Your article becomes a tertiary source, ABC News is the secondary source for the primary source which was the FBI Director himself. These kinds of chain references where the reader who wishes to check your source has to go through several links to get to the source are damaging to the writer's credibility, in my opinion, and should be avoided.

However, articles in which you personally conducted the interview and are bearing witness to what the relevent source said to you, are fair primary source references. There is no extra link in the chain for the reader to chase down because you've done the original investigation and reporting and these articles can credibly be used as primary source references for future articles.

Note that this is for news source references. If you include links to other articles you've written as additional background material, further reading, related topics, or also of interest pieces, that's a separate thing altogether and I don't take issue with that at all.