Anonymous sources are among the thorniest issues in journalism. Whether to use them? How to use them? What they do to the public’s perception of the credibility of news organizations? They’re a constant topic of conversation in journalism circles.

We decided at Civil Beat that the best approach, given our commitment to transparency, would be to publish our policy on anonymous sources and link to it whenever we use them. So today, because we have an article on the site that does include an anonymous source, we’re publishing a topic page on the issue and linking to it from the article.

Here, I’d just like to outline a few key points about our approach.

We believe that anonymous sources are sometimes necessary when they’re the only way we can share important information. We only use them, though, when we believe the public benefit clearly outweighs any potential downsides. Anonymous sources must be used carefully. The decision is in our sole judgment. To retain your trust, we believe we must explain why we granted anonymity. It’s not enough for us that somebody might ask for anonymity.

It’s important to state: We always try to obtain information on the record. But there may be cases where that’s impossible, and yet we believe we have information that is essential for the public to know. In such cases, before considering granting anonymity, we must know that the source or sources are reliable and that they have direct knowledge of the subject. We always try to confirm information by seeking multiple sources. We decide to grant anonymity because we believe the person has a justifiable reason not to speak on the record.

We hope this helps you understand our approach. Questions about it? Please email us at news@civilbeat.org.

An important ask . . .

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