Today’s Editorial January 23: Dark day for journalism

Monday was a dark day for the profession of journalism.

For on that day we heard the publisher of a Cayman-based newspaper reveale an anonymous source in a formal commission of enquiry.

And it has been claimed it was done in spite.

Anonymous sources should never be revealed. It’s one of the first tenants of journalism.

The Caymanian Compass doesn’t use anonymous sources in its stories unless doing so is the only way to get the information to the public.

Anonymous sources usually have documentation to back up what they are revealing. It is up to the publisher and editor of a newspaper to determine if that information is of such importance for the greater good of the public to publish an article and keep the source confidential.

Traditionally, most of an editor’s questions about a reporter’s unnamed source focus on the accuracy of the source’s information. Editors asked their reporters: Will this information stand up under the public’s scrutiny? Will it withstand court challenges? The identity of the source is important – but it is just one factor in the process of evaluating the credibility of the information.

The use of anonymous sources should be an exceptional event, but when they are used, the source should be protected.

And, when they are used, the reader is owed an explanation of why the source can’t be named.

Journalists throughout the world have spent time in jail for keeping the identity of their sources confidential.

The anonymous source is a sacred thing and should be protected no matter what occurs between the media house and the source in the future.

Nothing a source does in the future – short of specifically saying he no longer wants his anonymity preserved – should warrant the media house revealing him as a source.

It’s a matter of credibility.

It’s a matter of ethical journalism.

It’s a matter of doing the right thing.