By JOSEPH MARTIN
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The use of anonymous sources in the Cherokee One Feather currently has no protection on the Qualla Boundary. However, if an ordinance introduced to Tribal Council Aug. 2 passes and is ratified, that could change.
Ordinance 293, introduced by Cherokee One Feather Editor Robert Jumper on behalf of the newspaper’s editorial board, seeks to strengthen the current free press laws and extend the ability to keep anonymous sources anonymous. It also proposes consequences for incidents of political pressure, which would be turned over to the tribal Office of Internal Audit and Ethics for an ethics violation investigation.
The use of anonymous sources in the media is generally resisted. It can present credibility concerns, and it puts the liability solely on the media outlet who makes the information public.
However, in most cases where an anonymous source is used, there will be accompanying documentation to verify what the source is alleging. One such example is the “Washington Post’s” coverage of President Nixon’s Watergate scandal, which relied heavily on an anonymous source.
The ordinance states, “The One Feather will always strive to identify sources of news articles unless such identification will adversely affect the source. The One Feather Editorial Board will decide when the use of anonymous sources will be allowed on a case-by-case basis. One Feather staff will not be subject to pressure or threats from political persons or entities to reveal anonymous sources.”
Other proposed changes are:
- Remove the requirement for all material “dealing with controversial subjects” to be submitted to the editorial board for approval prior to publication;
- Remove the director of Marketing and Public Relations, a division and position that no longer exists, as a member of the editorial board;
- Include positions appointed by the executive committee, Tribal Council and a staff member from the Office of the Attorney General to serve indefinitely only to be removed for cause by a vote from the remaining members of the editorial board.
“I think the Tribal Council and Executive Office know the importance of an unfettered press for our community, and I think they support it,” Jumper said. “News reporting, done right, is about ensuring the public is exposed to all the facts of history in the making with a minimum of spin. The changes we are requesting are to help us to report Cherokee news in an unbiased fashion and as free of political influence as possible.”