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  1. #1
    Thailand Expat misskit's Avatar
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    A Look at Journalists' Use of Anonymous Sources

    Here's a guide to how and why American news reporters use "sources" to add information and details to their stories, in question-and-answer format:

    Why do journalists use anonymous sources?

    Reporters use anonymous sources because those sources sometimes will reveal important information only if they are able to remain unidentified.

    The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) says: "Anonymous sources are sometimes the only key to unlocking that big story, throwing back the curtain on corruption, fulfilling the journalistic missions of watchdog on the government and informant to the citizens. But sometimes, anonymous sources are the road to the ethical swamp."

    What are the motives of anonymous sources?

    Sources can have a wide variety of motivations wanting to expose activities they believe are illegal or immoral, being concerned about the public's right to know, and less high-minded reasons such as seeking to embarrass some person or group or advancing their personal agendas.

    What guidance is available for using anonymous sources?

    The SPJ code of ethics makes two main points on anonymity:

    Identify sources whenever possible. The public is entitled to as much information as can be provided about sources' reliability.

    Always question sources' motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.

    How often do reporters use anonymous sources?

    Most media outlets use anonymous sources to some extent. Many news reporters say the use of anonymous sources is much more prevalent now than it was 50 years ago.

    Last year, The New York Times tightened its rules for using anonymous sources, saying the practice "puts a strain on our most valuable and delicate asset: our trust with readers." The Times said last March that direct quotes from anonymous sources would be used only on rare occasions, and that at least one editor must know the identity of any anonymous source.

    By July, the Times' associate managing editor for standards, Phil Corbett, said there had been a "measurable drop," around 30 percent, in anonymous sourcing since the new guidelines had been put into place.

    Does the use of anonymous sources work?

    It depends on the journalists. The most famous example of successfully using anonymous sources was during the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, when The Washington Post used the anonymous source known as "Deep Throat" to unravel the White House cover-up of the Watergate break-in. Years later, "Deep Throat" was revealed to be a senior executive at the FBI.

    There are infamous examples, too, such as Janet Cooke, a Post reporter who invented a Pulitzer Prize-winning story in 1981 about a child heroin addict, and Jason Blair, a Times reporter who fabricated a confidential law enforcement source in the Washington sniper case in 2002. Both were dismissed by their employers after the truth came out.

    What does the law say about using anonymous sources?

    The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees American citizens freedom of speech and freedom of the press. However, that does not mean that the law will always protect a journalist's promise to keep his or her sources confidential. U.S. courts have jailed journalists for not revealing their sources in certain criminal cases. Conversely, the U.S. Supreme Court has also ruled that a source whose identity was revealed despite a promise of confidentiality may sue for damages.

    "Few ethical issues in journalism are more entangled with the law than the use of anonymous sources," the Society of Professional Journalists says. "Keep your promise not to identify a source of information, and it's possible to find yourself facing a grand jury, a judge and a jail cell. On the other hand, break your promise of confidentiality to that source and it's just possible you might find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit."

    A Look at Journalists' Use of Anonymous Sources

  2. #2
    Fresh Seaman CaptainNemo's Avatar
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    As someone who has worked in and has connections in the UK press, I know from experience the value of anonymous sources. Whistleblowing legislation isn't as good as it could be, some of the more subtle stuff is not really fully protected and people can be sent into real states of anxiety that can lead to dark places. The hard part is that everything is so trackable and traceable now, so you have to really think about not just the "analogue hole" but the whole chain of association that can lead to jumpy sources being exposed; by the same token, it's very easy to overthink and imagine that some senior bods can find out all sorts - just because you know how easy it could be done, when really they are often completely clueless, make mistakes, and just as petrified of being exposed themselves. Some newer and proposed legislation is quite worrying; so much press is infested with cryptofascists, though.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1F2i0rYMj8

    we are all figments of our own imagination.

  3. #3
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    As long as the journalist has integrity, and with the rule that at least one editor must know the identity of the anonymous source, it makes it imperative that anonymous sources are protected.
    Trump, with his claims of fake news, phony news, should put up or shut up, but he's doing what he does best; repeat something enough times and the sheeple will believe it. He wants to discredit his detractors and those who report inconvenient truths, and sadly, he's succeeding with his electoral base (no surprises there, really).

    Trump has repeatedly made the accusation that the non-Brietbartesque news is fake. He needs to back up his claims.

  4. #4
    Fresh Seaman CaptainNemo's Avatar
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    ^
    No, you are completely wrong - the opposite of the truth, in fact.

    There's a difference between an anonymous source presenting actual evidence covertly to a journalist (who will want more than one source, so they don't damage their own credibility in the eyes of their peers and their editor), and a blatant politicised news outlet making up trash and pumping it out every day as though it's fact - the "fake news" jibe has traction for a reason - they are actually doing it... I can guarantee you from experience that news stories aren't chosen for factual content, but how they fit into the day's and week's narrative... what agenda is being pushed. He doesn't need to back up his claims - those journalists need to back up theirs, otherwise they are effectively abusing their professional indemnity insurance to peddle defamation and propaganda, and that is far more damaging to a free press than anything a politician can do. True journalism depends upon integrity and credibility is a by-product of that. The media has been discrediting itself with it's blatant agenda to effectively govern the elected representatives through pumping out lies.
    The "sheeple" are the viewers and readers of the fake press, lapping up prolefeed - it is the press who need to put up or shut up.

  5. #5
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    If Deep Throat had been outed from the get go, Nixon would have gone unpunished.

    You need anonymity to protect whistleblowers.

    Which isn't to say that it isn't abused, mainly in the tabloid press, to create a front page when news is slow.

    But no-one every accused The Sun of reputable journalism, did they?

  6. #6
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    The romantic and base notion of a real journalist/journalism is a rare form today.

    Long passed are the days of critique, questioning, and challenging the status quo and systems of established convention - easier to play along with the game pretending to disguise as something else.

  7. #7
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    I agree, the News of the World was a fine publication pioneering investigative journalism.

  8. #8
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    ^ What makes you think this forum's membership is into such things?

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