Consider sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Explain why anonymity was granted.

The committee that revised the Society’s Code of Ethics felt the document’s tenets and underlying principles apply to all journalism regardless of how it’s ultimately presented. Still, the committee knew people interested in ethical journalism may benefit from additional guidance from the Society and other people and organizations.

Below are several resources that the Society’s ethics committee compiled to help people with day-to-day decisions. These resources are not formally part of the Code. Also, these lists will grow and change as more resources are found, or as resources become obsolete.

For those people who still have questions, please email the Society’s Ethics Hotline: ethics@spj.org


  • The Ethics Committee explains the importance of clearly identifying sources in a previous position paper, which also includes a detail overview on the use of anonymous sources.
    SOURCE: http://www.spj.org/ethics-papers-anonymity.asp
  • Journalists are often only as good as their sources. The Reuters Handbook of Journalism explains the importance of naming sources for all facts, and the complex relationships journalists form with their sources.
    SOURCE: http://handbook.reuters.com/?title=The_Essentials_of_Reuters_sourcing

  • NPR‘s Ethics Handbook offers good guidelines on anonymous sources and how they are to be treated in new stories. Considerations include what type of information they’re offering, the type of anonymity the source requests and the terms of the agreement between the source and journalist.
    SOURCE: http://ethics.npr.org/tag/anonymity/