Posted by Lillie Schrock
Last night, an article was posted on politico.com accusing presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexually harassing two women in the 1990s. While this stirred up quite a lot of conversation, there is one problem with the article: it does not cite any sources.
The article states “On the details of Cain’s allegedly inappropriate behavior with the two women, Politico has a half-dozen sources shedding light on different aspects of the complaints.” However, all of these sources are anonymous. Is it possible for a story to be credible when none of its sources are willing to be named?
Under the rules of the Associated Press, material from anonymous sources may be used only if:
1. The material is information and not opinion or speculation, and is vital to the news report.
2. The information is not available except under the conditions of anonymity imposed by the source.
3. The source is reliable, and in a position to have accurate information.
Additionally, the reporter’s manager must know the identity of the source, and is obligated, like the reporter, to keep the source’s identity confidential.
Nevertheless, there are many news organizations that do not follow these guidelines. According to Business Insider’s Policy on Anonymous Sources, “by maintaining healthy skepticism, and talking to as many sources as possible, we feel we can get a better picture of the real story than we can by only talking to folks who will go on the record.”
Should all news organizations be required to comply to the same rules on anonymous sources? Or should news organizations always do whatever they can to get their story out?