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anonymous source

In journalism?, an anonymous source is a person who speaks on condition of not being named. Anonymous sources can initiate the transaction in which they reveal information (as in a tip line?), or be found and questioned by a journalist? in the context of writing a story.

Since anonymous sources tend to have much more access?, knowledge or credentials than typical anonymous trolls, they are protected by journalist best practice.

Most journalists will go to jail for contempt of court? rather than defer to a court order? to reveal such a source.

Online journalism? is especially reliant on anonymous sources, many of whom initiate a transaction in which they reveal information. Most online services tolerating outing of persons who do not voluntarily reveal their identities quickly die off, as this practice is inherently abusive. Decisions to expose an anonymous source to legal, personal or political risk are among the most serious that a chief editor can make. Most would resign rather than turn over a source which has been reliable, to preserve their journalistic career or their colleagues' work.

The film All the President's Men?, based on an account of the Watergate? expose, highlights the role of Deep Throat, whose identity remained secret for approximately 30 years. He was probably the most famous anonymous source. There were numerous and serious threats against the lives and the livelihoods of the persons who had protected his identity, the least of which was libel suits for tens of millions of dollars.

It's also common however for very short term protections to apply when sources are friendly to the subject but do not wish to prevent the subject changing their mind or presenting the issue in their own way. Often, a "senior administration official?" will outline an announcement to reduce the probability of errors when it is reported - a friendly leak?. For instance a January 2007 announcement by G. W. Bush on health insurance was reported(external link) by Associated Press? and included two such reports, in which "both officials spoke on condition of anonymity? because they did not want to pre-empt the president's speech." In this case, the friendly nature of the leak was ethically and properly revealed, and the sources' identities would only become an issue if they were inaccurate on the facts involved.





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