Sunday, March 07, 2010

Anonymous sources 

Glennzilla has a great post about anonymity in journalism and why it is bad journalism. Here's the paragraph which should be framed and posted on every newsroom's wall:
In very limited circumstances, anonymity is valuable and justified (e.g., when someone is risking something substantial to expose concealed wrongdoing of serious public interest). But promiscuous, unjustified anonymity -- which pervades the establishment press -- is the linchpin of most bad, credibility-destroying reporting. It enables government officials and others to lie to the public with impunity or manipulate them with propaganda, using eager reporters as both their megaphone and shield. It is the weapon of choice for reporters eager to serve as loyal message-carriers and royal court gossip columnists. It preserves and bolsters the culture of secrecy that dominates Washington -- exactly the opposite of what a real journalist, by definition, would seek to accomplish . . . . In sum, petty or otherwise unjustified uses of anonymity is the hallmark of the power-worshiping, dishonest, unreliable reporter . . . . As Izzy Stone put it about the Vietnam War: "The process of brain-washing the public starts with off-the-record briefings for newspapermen. . . ."

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