July 18, 2005

SUNLIGHT, AFTER ALL, IS THE BEST DISINFECTANT:

Sources Of Trouble (David S. Broder, July 17, 2005, Washington Post)

The relationship between reporters and anonymous sources is built on mutual trust -- the journalist's belief that the source will be candid, even while disclaiming personal responsibility for the information, and the source's belief that the reporter will honor her or his commitment to protect the identity of the informant.

But the reader is deliberately not included in that circle of confidants. Rather, each member of the audience is told implicitly by the reporter, "I won't share something important with you that I know -- namely, the identity of the person who is my source."

The rationale for this deliberate withholding of information is, ideally, that the substance of what the source has provided is so valuable to the public that it justifies the damage done each time the public is asked to accept the "gift" without knowing its origins.


If it was important enough that we needed to know they wouldn't insist on anonymity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 18, 2005 12:23 PM
Comments

Thank you for not using a Mexican hammer to hit that nail on the head.

Posted by: NC3 at July 18, 2005 8:15 PM

I think the whole relationship between reporters and anonymous sources is a deal made in hell that ought to be broken.

The sources are the members of the permanent government who are perpetually trying to thwart the elected representatives of the pople, by means of selective leaks. If they had real issues and real integrity they would resign and go public.

Allowing them to keep their jobs and snipe at the administration from the shadows is sleazy and dishonest. The administration should fight back by making it a practice to subpoena reporters who use anonymous sources.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at July 18, 2005 9:31 PM

For conservatives, you guys are mighty trustful of big government.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 19, 2005 3:07 PM

One of the ironies of democracy--the government is us, the press isn't.

Posted by: oj at July 19, 2005 4:59 PM
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