On the Condition of Anonymity

Journalists have long concealed the identity of certain sources in order to bring to light otherwise unavailable information. At times, this practices has served the public by exposing wrongdoing or secret activities. Yet too often source anonymity leads to news reporting that comes under fire for hiding inappropriate relationships with sources or even outright fabrication.

On the Condition of Anonymity tracks a series of controversial incidents involving unnamed sources taking place at some of the most prestigious U.S. news outlets: New York Times, Washington Post, CBS News, Newsweek, and Time. Rather than seen as isolated events, these incidents sparked a protracted conversation about the practice of hiding the identities of sources.

By going beyond arguments for or against unnamed sources, this book exposes the complexity of forces that give rise to a culture of anonymity in which journalists and sources have come to expect anonymity. What is needed is a rethinking about the conditions in which this practice should be used, one that puts the needs of the public at the forefront.

On the Condition of Anonymity: Unnamed Sources and the Battle for Journalism is available from the University of Illinois Press.

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