Ross and Nelles had to make the decision of whether to include the names of several industry workers before writing the article.
Many of the sources told stories about damage done to their property and personal threats for simply underbidding a contractor who was meant to win a specific bid. Ross was worried that if she were to attribute any quotes to the employees, these sources could face dire consequences.
The people who she spoke to were fully aware she was a journalist and was looking for information as well as quotes for the article. Ross had to weigh the benefits with the limitations (and potential harm) of citing names. On one hand, naming the sources who did not ask to be off the record would not only make an article that could be easily fact-checked by an independent third-party to prove its authenticity, and make the article more believable, but risk the fact that any of them could potentially be put in harm’s way as a result of them speaking out. Alternately, she could offer the same confidentiality to sources who asked to be off the record as those who didn’t, which would protect their identities and safety, at the cost of having a story without a single attributed quote and risking both the credibility and believability of an intensely researched investigative report.
Next: Epilogue: Did Ross and Nelles include the names of sources who did not ask to be off the record?