From AJR, December 1994 issue
Using Unnamed Sources
The cincinnati enquirer's policy on using anonymous sources
By Lawrence Beaupre
The cincinnati enquirer's policy on using anonymous
sources, written by Editor Lawrence Beaupre:
- The identities of all sources must be verified and
confidentially disclosed to the editor and, if requested, to the newspaper's
- Misleading information about the true identity of
a source may not be used in a story, even to "throw off" suspicion.
- Information supplied by an unnamed source should
be verified independently or confirmed by at least one other source. An
exception may be made (albeit with risk) for individuals who are the sole
possessors of the information or whose integrity is unassailable....
- The motive of the anonymous source should be fully
examined to prevent our being used unwittingly to grind someone's ax.
- We should avoid using anonymous sources on information
that calls someone's judgment into question or on statements that are a
matter of opinion. For example, it would be wrong to quote an anonymous
source saying someone is "dumb."... If someone wants to take a jab at someone
else, he should be compelled to put his name behind it.
- Information attributed to an anonymous source must
be factual and important to the story. Peripheral information or "just
a good quote" aren't good enough reasons for anonymity.
- As with on-the-record sources, the Rule of the Best
Source should prevail. Reporters and editors should satisfy themselves
that the source is appropriate to provide the information sought and that
he or she is in a position to know.
- When an unnamed source must be used, the story should
explain why his or her identity is being withheld, and enough information
should be given about the source to establish his or her authority to speak
on the subject.
- Stories containing unnamed sources may not be published
without the approval of the editor or a managing editor. Generally, I want
to be consulted.
- We should not quote people whose identities we do
not know or cannot verify.