The Washington Post

Anonymous source standards: Enforce!

Romenesko is now polling journalists to see whether AP has more stringent standards than other outlets when it comes to the use of anonymous sources. The legendary wire service allows such sources only when they convey information, not “opinion or speculation.” Journoprofs responded to the call by pointing out that the New York Times and the Washington Post have both come under fire from their internal watchdogs for violating house standards on anonymous sources.

It’s all about enforcement, says Sarah Larimer, an editor at Grantland and a former AP reporter:

I spent about 3 1/2 years at AP in Miami, and I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I used an anonymous source. I honestlydon’t know if I ever did. As I recall, they are mostly used in breaking sports and political coverage. AP was very particular about the policy, but in practice it wasn’t as uptight as it might sound. It was a simple call to an editor, where you’d say “Erik Wemple told me ______ and here’s why we can’t use his name.” I can’t remember an instance where an anonymous sourcing was declined. It’s pretty well enforced, but part of that might be because the instances in which this type of reporting are used are also the instances in which you’d be in constant contact with an editor, so that kind of conversation is quick and easy. AP likes being first, but it likes being right more.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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