Confidential Sources

Confidential Sources

The use of confidential sources in the Northern Star should be …

  • Extremely rare
  • Credible information
  • Known to the reporter and editors
  • Explained to readers

Extremely rare: Only in cases where the information is vital to the public interest and the information absolutely can’t be obtained on the record. No trivial information will be attributed to a confidential source. Deciding factors could be concern for public safety or the physical safety of the source, or improper and potentially illegal activity by public officials.

Credible information: The reporter must know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the source is telling the truth and has direct knowledge
the information he/she is offering. A story should not hinge entirely on an anonymous source.

Known to the reporter and editors: The source cannot be nameless or anonymous to the reporter. You have to know exactly who it is, in order to decide if the information is credible. The campus editor and editor in chief also must know the person’s identity, again for them to decide whether the information is credible and worth using without full attribution.

Explained to readers: An editor’s note with the story, or as a sidebar, must accompany any story that uses an anonymous source. The note should explain why the Star decided it was in the public’s interest for the paper to use the source.