- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Editors at about one in four newspapers who responded to a survey say they never allow reporters to quote anonymous sources, and most others have policies designed to limit the practice.

One editor said his paper’s rules are so strict they would have disqualified “Deep Throat” as a source.

The use of anonymous sources — people who give reporters information only on the condition that their identities not be divulged — has come under scrutiny recently, notably in a now-retracted Newsweek magazine report that U.S. interrogators flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet.

The issue came up again last week with the disclosure that Deep Throat, The Washington Post’s legendary Watergate source, had been an FBI official.

The survey by the Associated Press and the Associated Press Managing Editors association drew replies from 419 publications — about 29 percent of the nation’s 1,450 daily newspapers.

Editors at 103 papers, nearly all of them in small and midsize markets, said they never permit reporters to cite anonymous sources in their articles.

“Our policy is to get people on the record. Period,” said Eileen Lehnert, editor of the Jackson (Mich.) Citizen Patriot. “Once you operate from that standpoint, you rarely have to reconsider your position.”

Newspapers that do allow the use of unnamed sources include those based in large cities and operating bureaus overseas or in Washington, where requests by sources for anonymity occur often. Most of these papers say they have formal policies intended to minimize the reliance on anonymity.

“The use of unnamed sources is limited to the most compelling cases where an important story can be told no other way,” said David Boardman, managing editor of the Seattle Times.

Carl Lavin, deputy managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, said his paper discourages the use of unnamed sources, but said, “This needs to be balanced with the need to present vital information to the reader that cannot be obtained by other means.”

Ken Stickney, managing editor at the News-Star in Monroe, La., said he bars his reporters from using unnamed sources, but will carry news service stories with such sources “because sometimes you can’t get anything out of Washington without them.”

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