The Daily Citizen uses unnamed sources sparingly, following these guidelines:
- Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability. The reporter should try hard to persuade a source to be identified by name, explaining that anonymous quotes have less credibility with readers than quotes from named sources.
- If an unidentified source must be used, the reason should be stated and the source should be described as fully as possible without identifying him or her so readers can gauge the source’s credibility. When appropriate, explain why an anonymous source is being used.
- The source must clearly be in a position to know the information being shared. The information must be crucial to the story and we must make efforts to get the information in another way.
- Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
- Any use of anonymous sourcing must be specifically approved by a top editor such as the managing editor or chief executive officer. At least one editor must know the specific identity of any anonymous source.
- Direct quotes from anonymous sources should be used rarely, and only when such quotes are pivotal to the story.
The Daily Citizen will seek to ensure sources understand our rules for attribution. Before any interview in which any degree of anonymity is expected, there will be a discussion in which the ground rules are set.
- “On the record” means the source will be quoted and attributed in the story.
- “Not for attribution” means the information can be used but the source can’t be named; reporters and sources will agree on the terminology that will be used in the story to explain the source of the information.
- “On background” means the source cannot be named but the information can be used for further reporting.
- “Off the record” means the information cannot be used for publication.