Staff ed: Sourcing and anonymity

Staff Editorial, Staff

One of the first things you are taught in a journalism course is that anonymous sources weaken a piece. No matter the content, topic or length, a reader invests differently with an anonymous source than with someone they see named.

Whether it be credibility, impact or the ability for the readers to connect, journalists work to avoid granting anonymity in order to improve the quality of coverage. It means going into interviews knowing your angle, accepting material on background and talking options about sources and anonymity with your editor. 

Anonymity for sources is granted only when it is for the protection of a source’s well-being. There are and will always be situations where the content and background, while important, pales in comparison to the safety of those who experienced or know about the situation. 

The conversation about anonymity is not a matter of convincing someone to go on record at all costs. Empathy must always be present in the room when decisions and conversations about sourcing are being made. 

At The Oracle, we are in the process of scrutinizing our way of sourcing and part of this is our way of granting anonymity.

Journalism at and about a college exists within the same rules and ethics that journalism in the outside world depends on, but it is also a practice of community journalism in the most intimate forms. We are members of the community, writing for and about the people who exist right around us. 

The stories we are writing are about our peers, professors, trainers, coaches and staff members that support and make up Hamline alongside us. What does or can it mean to consider the ways the stories The Oracle publishes have lasting impacts on the humans around us? If at any time someone going on record jeopardizes their work study or internship, athletic season or class, our reporting is doing harm, an unacceptable reality for journalists. It is in these cases that anonymity is discussed between the reporter, the section editor and the editor-in-chief.  The only staff members within our publication who have access to the names and information are these three and that confidentiality is taken with the utmost severity. 

The Oracle is in the process of looking at our sourcing practices and the ways we can improve and grow how we treat and handle those who speak with us and their stories. We appreciate any and all stories that our community is willing to share with us. We as a staff are also identifying ways to acknowledge the stories we are seeking out and the weight they carry and the act of sharing them holds. 

As journalists, our goal is to acquire and disseminate information respectfully and accessibly. The stories and lived experiences of our sources are the foundation of our work; without these stories, we would have nothing to explore, share and research. If at any time we lose the importance of these stories to the daily lives of those who share them, we are entirely doing a disservice to our community. 


Anika Besst 

Editor in Chief 

Robin Doyscher 

Managing Editor 

Lydia Meier

News Editor

Sena Ross

Design Editor

Leo Coughenour

Opinion Editor

Cathryn Salis

Sports & Life Editor