Lloyd John Philip Bonello
Advanced English Writing Skills – ELP1106
January 31, 2018
In between 700 and 800 words, discuss to what extent protecting a source is more important than revealing all the relevant information about a news story.
A journalists success is measured by how relevant and reliable his/her information is. Delivering accurate, reliable and truthful reporting is the only way a journalist can climb his/her rank and consume a truly professional role within the journalistic field. Without any sources, a true journalist wouldn’t be possible.
Journalist inform the public with as much information as they possibly can, regardless of the harm it might cause. They disclose any relationships, whether with partners or funders, that might appear to influence their coverage. Assessing the value and vulnerability of a source is the only way to confirm the reliability of information. A reporter must inform his/her source of why they are carrying out their research as well ass processing all sources for validity.
When facing the decision whether to call out a source or not, journalists must consider the impact which their choice will cause. The decision of whether or not to keep the sources information confidential, is all up to the responsibilities and morals of the reporter. When revealing a source, the journalist should take into consideration many different perspectives, such as, who will benefit and who will suffer. For instance, will the source allow a criminal or power figure to escape justice even though he/she is actually guilty of malpractice? As well as many other aspects which might compromise the reveal of information for other journalists or police figures.
Journalists, at times opt for anonymous sources due to the high quality of information which the majority of individuals would not want to enclose without a confidential agreement. Therefore protecting the source from the danger they might encounter if their credentials are leaked will increase the chances for the source to speak up as well as increasing the value of information. The Society of Professional Journalists states that: “Anonymous sources are sometimes the only key to unlocking that big story.” They also inform that sometimes, “Anonymous sources are the road to the ethical swamp.” A reporter has a very close and confidential relationship with the sources they choose, as without them, they are nothing. Many great journalists have ended up in prison and even killed over defending these types of relationships. This is all to assure that the details shared by the source will not be spread amongst the public.
Although gathering information is their forte, journalists have all the right to refuse any information which was cast upon them without their reporting consent. However, once the reporter commits to the source, he/she is bound with a promise, not to mention any unwanted details. Being in possession of this trust, will increase the amount of information by the same source as well as any other potential sources. On the other hand, if the reporter chooses not to keep the agreement of confidentiality, they will most likely never be trusted again as well as loose their reporting rights and work. Therefore, confidentiality is one of the most important aspects of a journalist.
In rare cases a journalist might need to reveal confidential material. The reveal of confidential information can only be done in fulfilment of the following conditions with reference to the European Convention on Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. For instance, information can be shared during certain cases and procedures, of which the reporter is allowed to remove the confidentiality bound information from the source and then reveal that same information. This law is defined by the European Court of Human Rights. Another example is when there is a legitimate reason for why exposing such confidential material will benefit the locality by aiding a reasonable aim, such as the public law and order, protection of public health or moral or others. Lastly, and which is only possible within a democratic society where revealing the source is a necessity. It is assessed by a balance of public interest. The reveal is only exposed once the government official validates whether or not the public interest prevails the interest of not revealing the source.
There can be no freedom of media or journalistic reporting if not for the protection and confidentiality of sources. On the other hand, if a journalist, is withdrawn from their rights to their freedom of speech, they would not be able to reveal as much information to the public and thus would not contribute in the development and advancement of a democracy.
(n.d.). Retrieved December 20, 2017, from https://www.thenewsmanual.net/Manuals%20Volume%203/volume3_60.htm
Ethical Ground Rules for Handling Sources. (n.d.). Retrieved December 20, 2017, from http://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/resources/publications/ethics-in-the-news/handling-sources
News, V. (2017, February 24). A Look at Journalists’ Use of Anonymous Sources. Retrieved December 20, 2017, from https://www.voanews.com/a/journalists-use-anonymous-sources/3738986.html
F. (2016, November 09). Without the protection of journalistic sources, there can be no media freedom and freedom of journalistic work. Retrieved December 20, 2017, from http://www.fairpress.eu/blog/2016/11/04/without-the-protection-of-journalistic-sources-there-can-be-no-media-freedom-and-freedom-of-journalistic-work/#_ftn18