Correcting inaccuracies from an anonymous source

A report from the Associated Press, citing an anonymous senior U.S. intelligence official, raised international alarms last week. It incorrectly stated that a missile from Russia meant for Ukraine hit a town in Poland, however the missile was from Ukraine. The AP was the first outlet outside of Poland to report on the strike. The SPJ Code of Ethics states that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy. The AP issued a correction within the day. The Code says, journalists should “acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.” The reporter who wrote the erroneous story has been fired after a brief investigation. Now, the AP says it is reviewing its policy on anonymous sources. The Code encourages journalists to consider the motive of sources before providing anonymity, and to explain why anonymity was granted, which was not done in the initial report, contrary to the AP’s policy. SPJ’s Ethics Committee provides a position paper on the issue of anonymous sources.