Bummer dude

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"No anonymous sources unless the story is of major importance to the community or the country. Anonymous sourcing should be extraordinary, not routine" (22).

I agree with the last part of this quote and even the first part, but at the Setonian we have such a small community that reads the paper that nothing will ever need to be anonymous.

In a class last year, I asked about anonymous quotes because I wanted to do something about drinking or a column about crazy things that happen at SHU. It was made clear that an article like this would not fly with the nuns/administration, we don't do gossipy/ask abby stuff, and we don't ever use anonymous quotes.

People I interviewed weren't willing to come forward though because they were afraid they would get in trouble, but it is these ideas, this popculture focus on sex, crime, drugs, and drinking that would bring more readers to the paper. Only we aren't allowed to put that in. Not in even in a column because of the audience we have now and because of need for anonymous sources.

So these guidelines may work for AP and The USA Today, but not the Setonian. However, I did like and think many of the other guidelines could apply, like saying "The USA Today has learned" and describing the source.

SO

7 Comments

Derek Tickle said:

The blogging on the "anonymous" information is very popular in our class. I think that a national newspaper is very likely to use anonymous quotes because of how board of a paper most are. I agree with you about how it would probably bring more readers to the paper, but the more anonymous the paper gets, then the less relaible it also gets. I would also say that an anonymous source/quote is usually popular among the political articles. It just seems that some people do not want to have there names published for privacy reasons.

Aja Hannah said:

I'm not saying to go all out, but it seems to me the Setonian has no guidelines for this sort of thing, no exceptions. Even in a column? Then again I'd guess this paper would feel more like a magazine.

Maybe that's what SHU needs. A magazine. We have a magazine writing class. Why not develop it further like a fake sort of paparazzi? Do any other schools have this?

I think it's kind of strange that the Setonian never uses anonymous quotes, because I would think that you would actually need to use anonymous sources more in a small community than you would in a bigger one. If you have information that could potentially embarrass you, you're much less likely to attach your name to it in a community where everybody knows your name (cue the Cheers theme music) than in a place where you're one among many. Of course, I don't know how much the Setonian reports on scandals and cover-ups, which are the kind of stories I envision you would encounter anonymous sources the most. But certainly in a tiny community like Seton Hill, should something like that occur, you would want people to feel like they can safely bring information to light without feeling like they can't walk down the halls without enduring ugly looks from everyone they see.

I regularly point out that our audience includes nuns, older alumni, and parents, and that it's never a good idea to alienate your readership, but it's always the student editors who decide what to print.

If the students decide that edgier content will bring benefits that are worth the risks, then I would advise them how to take those risks ethically and responsibly.

Aja Hannah said:

I'm not saying get rid of the content that makes our established readers happy, but I'd like to see some push. Most of what we write is so fluffy. I'd like to see something that would make the students pick up the paper. I though it was paper written by the students for the students.

Josie Rush said:

Aja, I agree with you; it would definitely draw more people in if topics like alcohol, drugs, etc were discussed. Matt, you're also right in my opinion, in a smaller community, it's less likely someone will confess to their regular alcohol consumption, because *everybody* knows *everybody*. And Dr. Jerz is right to point out that our audience is not just the sudent-body, but parents, nuns, older alumni. And alienating readers is never a good idea. However, I don't think that a column that is devoted to these issues would drive these readers away, especially if it is conducted in a mature, ethical manner. As far as anonymous sources go there--what other choice would the reporter have? I know if I were being interviewed for something like that, I would ask that my name be left out. I can't think of many who wouldn't.

Aja and Josie and everyone else... Anyone can attend the editorial meetings, to make suggestions and give story pitches.

The next issue is coming out next week, so it's probably too late to propose anything new now, but there's still one more issue this term.

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