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Thread (1/1): A lot of discussion about #anonymous sources in the past few days. This is good! Those invested in #newsliteracy welcome the chance to share some insight into how/why/when anonymous sources are used. Here is how we talk about anonymity with student journalists.
Why: the most important part of anonymity. 1) why would someone need anonymity vs. why someone would want anonymity. It’s important to distinguish between these. As journalists, it is vital that we can attribute information to named sources to be transparent.
(2)Who: many people ask for it, but it should only be granted in cases where the person faces very really harm for sharing information that can be verified as truthful. The person sharing is obviously vulnerable and checks out as credible.
3) And even then, some people are powerful enough not to need to be protected by anonymity. In almost every case, most people need to stand behind what they say, just as we practice with journalists and their bylines.
4) When: the public’s need and right to know has to be counted. Journalists have to consider how important the information is for the public. This will be perceived differently by different people but, for the most part, journalists lean into “sunshine is the best disinfectant.”
5) Law: truth is the best defense. That doesn’t mean journalists publish can legally private information. Anonymity doesn’t mean journalists aren’t held legally accountable.
6) sparingly: anonymity, is granted very rarely. A journalist’s credibility is the foundation of the public’s trust in their work. Trust has never been more important. By checking out multiple, credible news sources you can check the reporting on a topic by several reporters.
7) news literacy: keep asking questions! Don’t dismiss anonymous reporting but as readers keep a skeptical eye. Reporters know the weight anonymity carries. A student journalist might use anonymous source once, if ever, as a student. This is because anonymity is so important.
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