Your Views: When to use anonymity

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Your Views: When to use anonymity
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To the editor:

I was disappointed to see the way an anonymous source was used in Olivia Anderson’s front page story, “Assault Statement Criticized.” Deep into the story, on page 7, Anderson wrote, “One anonymous resident, who will be referred to as Joe, expressed frustrations that, in their belief, Wilson…” the source then takes a pot shot at Mayor Justin Wilson that does not further the story. What it does do is degrade the publication and erode the reader’s trust.

Journalistic ethics demand that anonymous sourcing be used only when the information is indispensable to the news story, or in other words, facts that cannot be established in any other way than by resorting to the use of an anonymous source. It is also expected that there be at least two other sources corroborating the information. The Associated Press “Statement of News Values and Principles” further says: “That material is information and not opinion or speculation, and it is vital to the news report.”

Shockingly, the anonymous “Joe’s” quote appears on the page as the pull quote, implying the editor approves of employing low standards when it comes to reporting stories important to our community.

Holding our elected officials’ proverbial feet to the fire is important as is speaking truth to power, but that is not what Anderson was doing in this case. This kind of reporting undermines the press.

It is no secret to any reader of this publication that the Times has little love for Wilson, who was fairly elected by a majority of Alexandrians. In the name of good journalism and those who are still trying to hold true to the standards that maintain public trust and support democracy, please, keep the editorializing to the Our View column of this paper.

-Tiffany Pache, Alexandria

Publisher’s note: Pache raises important points in her letter, because the use of anonymous sources is not something our paper, or any other paper of integrity, does lightly. The decision to use this quote was approved by Times management. We believe it did significantly add to the news report because the quote supports and was validated by the facts of the story, provided balance to Wilson’s comments and explained what the code says about the role of mayors in a City Manager-Council governance model. There are several situations that warrant anonymity, one of them being fear of retribution. Our source fell into this category.

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