What should a reporter know before agreeing to protect someone's identity?
David A. Shultz, "Avoiding Pitfalls With Confidential Sources," Editor & Publisher, May 4, 1996, p. 5.
- Understand the nature of the information
Is the promise of confidentiality justified based upon the importance and availability of the information?
- Be clear about the terms of the agreement.
Are you agreeing to keep someone's name out of a story, or promising to go to jail before you reveal the name?
- Express the promise in terms of specific facts you can guarantee; don't promise a result.
Promise the name won't be used in the story, not that no one will know the name.
- Does your employer allow reporters to make promises of confidentiality on their own, or does it require prior approval of management?
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