Brandon Macz, a UI JAMM graduate, wrote the lead story in the Feb. 11-12 Moscow-Pullman Daily News headlined: Militias on the Palouse: Armed men hide their names and faces in fear of backlash from the community.  The story begins as follows:

For the past 13 months, men from around Latah and Whitman County have been joining quietly what they call the 57th and 75th battalions of the Lightfoot Militia. They profess a belief in their constitutional liberty to serve in a joint militia and in a duty to serve their communities. Their public face includes a website, a Facebook page, frequent Craigslist postings and fliers hung up around the area.

The story goes on to describe a condition imposed by members of the militia: “They declined to talk, however, unless the Daily News identified them only with first names and generalized occupational descriptions.”  What do you think of this arrangement? Do you think the newspaper was justified in granting the militia members anonymity?

Later in the story, Macz quotes several named sources: the Spokane and Whitman County sheriffs, a Pullman police captain and the Moscow police chief. He also extensively quotes an expert on militias, Steven Chermak, a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University and author of the book, “Searching for a Demon: The Media Construction of the Militia Movement.”  Do these sources balance the quotes from Jeff, Steve, Robert and Tosh, all identified as militia members?

The full story is behind the Daily News’ paywall, but students interested in seeing it should e-mail me.

Feb. 14 Update: Many news organizations have policies that describe circumstances when anonymous or confidential sources can be used.  The Associated Press Statement of News Values and Principles lists these conditions for using material from anonymous sources:

1. The material is information and not opinion or speculation, and is vital to the news report.
2. The information is not available except under the conditions of anonymity imposed by the source.
3. The source is reliable, and in a position to have accurate information.

Do you think the Daily News story passes this 3-point test?

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