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Vetting Anonymous Sources

Posted on Monday, January 30, 2017 at 10:14 PM

In the news: How readers and journalists should assess the credibility of anonymous sources.

Readers are becoming more vigilant about "fake news," which means that journalists face new dilemmas when incorporating unnamed sources into their articles. According to Poynter last week, "Studies have shown that using unnamed sources hurts journalists' credibility with the public. At the same time, some potentially important stories would not be reported if journalists were unable to promise sources anonymity."

Poynter's discussion focuses on readers but contains wisdom for journalists and editors as well. Anonymous sourcing is sometimes necessary to protect the source from legal retribution, as seen in the cases of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

Ultimately, Poynter advises, "Sources must trust that journalists will protect their identities. Journalists must trust that sources are being truthful regardless of any ulterior motives. Readers, meanwhile, have to choose whether to trust media reports based on unnamed sources. Each reader has his or her own reasons for trusting or not trusting the news, but media outlets could help by relying as little as possible on unnamed sources and being as transparent as possible when they do." Read the full article here.

Also Notable

Unsatisfactory Access to Government Sources

The Society of Professional Journalists has written to Donald Trump and Mike Pence expressing concerns over unsatisfactory access to government sources dating back to the Obama administration. In 2015 SPJ prepared a white paper with background on the problem. See it here.

AAM Certifies Digital Fulfillment System

Last week, the Alliance for Audited Media certified Valuemags' Digital Fulfillment. This marks the first time the AAM has given this certification. According to the PR Newswire on Yahoo's Finance page, "AAM concluded that ValueMags' Digital Fulfillment System complies with the AAM bylaws and rules related to tracking access for sponsored digital subscriptions, as well as industry guidelines and best practices for IT controls." Read the full newswire here.

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