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On Feb. 7, The Globe and Mail reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office attempted to press Jody Wilson-Raybould when she was justice minister to intervene in the corruption and fraud prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. This story and several followup stories include information from anonymous sources. Some readers have asked for clarification on when and why The Globe choses to grant anonymity in its reporting.

When you see “according to sources with knowledge of the matter,” or “sources said,” the name of that source of information has not been excluded lightly. Sometimes key details in a story cannot be told without protecting a source who risks retribution for speaking to the press. The reporter always knows who the source is, and at The Globe, a senior editor must approve the decision to grant anonymity. Reporters are encouraged to describe the person with as much detail as possible so readers understand their expertise and why their name is not used. Direct quotes are not used if they simply express opinions – we do not grant anonymity to allow a source to criticize or attack others without having to be accountable for what they say.

Our Editorial Code of Conduct is available to the public and offers specific details regarding The Globe’s policy on anonymous sources. Here are some key points:

In an ideal world, there would be no anonymous sources, but sometimes an important story cannot be obtained without protecting a source who risks retribution if identified. Reporters should strive to minimize the use of unattributed quotes, keeping in mind that the justification for omitting attribution is to get the fullest story possible, not to let people dodge accountability or take anonymous potshots.

Anonymity is granted not by an individual reporter, but by The Globe and Mail through the editor-in-chief or senior editorial managers...Direct quotes should not be attributed to anonymous sources but should be paraphrased and cannot include personal attacks. In rare circumstances a direct anonymous quote can be allowed with the approval of a senior editorial manager.

The use of anonymous sources should be the last resort and subject to the following conditions:

  • They convey important details or information that cannot be obtained for attribution elsewhere;
  • They are not used to voice opinions or make ad hominem or personal attacks;
  • We must be diligent in describing sources as fully as possible. That includes: how the anonymous sources know what they know, why they are willing to providethe information, why we agreed to grant them anonymity and how they will be described in an article.
  • A senior editorial manager must be told the name and full details before an anonymous source can be used.

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