Being an anonymous source is a great option for people to come forward and report something as it does not pose the threat of the news circling back to them and hence ensuring their safety in most of the cases. However, on the other hand, it poses a problem for the journalists as the credibility of the news cannot be justified since no one knows the source of the information. This is a very thin line to walk on. Between reporting on a credible source and protecting the identity of the informant, journalists have a hard time balancing.
It is a “delicate dance” of checking the facts given by the sources without compromising their safety and without hinting much on their identity. Asking too many specific questions could raise suspicion and the source might not remain unidentified anymore. Relying on anonymous sources can be a gamble sometimes, which no journalist would like to lose.
“If someone gives you a tip anonymously, you have to try to confirm it through other means, and sometimes get documents, sometimes talk to officials or other people who might be involved in the story,” says Matthew Carroll, a professor of the practice in the School of Journalism at Northeastern University.
News sources generally run with the stories they get tipped off by multiple sources rather than one since if only one person knew about the story, it would be pretty easy to identify the tipster. Anonymous sources are a great way to expose any story, but altogether they pose a different set of challenges for the reporters to deal with like checking the credentials without compromising the identity of the tipper, fighting against the chance that the story might be a hoax or any chance that someone might find a way to discredit it, are all a part of the challenges. The journalist puts his own credibility on the line and that of the newspaper as well.