Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Naming your Sources?
Should journalists name their unnamed sources if they are told to? Or should they keep the information confidential to protect the person's identity? Journalists often face the dilemma to decide between these options. Judith Miller, a former reporter for the New York Times, decided to protect reporters' rights to keep unnamed sources' identities to themselves. She spent 85 days in jail. A public discussion erupted about ethics in journalism. Should Miller have given in? Every reporter must answer these questions to the best of his or her ethical knowledge. Every situation is different. First of all, confidential sources should only be used if they fear for their lives or jobs after the story would be published. Reporters should always talk to their editors about using unnamed sources. They should also call ethics hotlines and take the SPJ Code of Ethics as their standard. Is it really necessary to use a confidential source? The public usually wants a name in the story - give them a good reason if you do not use it. If you make the promise to keep the information, keep it. But maybe it would be good to sit down with your sources and discuss how far you are willing to go for them.