May 4, 2005


Scott McClellan: We'll End Background If You Drop Anonymous Sources (Joe Strupp, May 03, 2005, editor & Publisher)

Scott McClellan, President Bush's press secretary, said Tuesday evening that he would end the use of background-only briefings -- if White House reporters would stop using anonymous sources in their reporting.

"I told them upfront that I would be the first to sign on if we could get an end to the use of anonymous sources in the media," McClellan told E&P, referring to a meeting he had with a half-dozen Washington bureau chiefs last week. He said that "people in the heartland" feel that "anonymous sources use them to hide behind efforts to generate negative publicity."

McClellan's comments followed E&P's report Tuesday that a group of top Washington bureau chiefs had launched a campaign to pressure government officials, including McClellan, to allow briefings with reporters to be held on the record. The bureau chiefs contend that the background-only briefings force them to use sourcing that is, essentially, anonymous, reducing their credibility.

[After this story appeared today on E&P Online, McClellan told E&P that he strongly objected to how it characterized his comment about agreeing to end background-only briefings if reporters quit using anonymous sources elsewhere. “You may have misinterpreted my remarks,” McClellan wrote in an e-mail. “I was simply saying that this is a larger issue than just background briefings in any administration, as I indicated to you. It is about the widespread use of anonymous sources by the media, an issue that media organizations have acknowledged -- see today's New York Times story. My comment to you was reflecting that I would welcome the media getting rid of anonymous sourcing -- with some rare exceptions that are more than justifiable.” E&P stands by its original report.]

Both would be welcome reforms, but the press will never do it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 4, 2005 12:56 PM

They value gossip over reporting. They say Joseph Pulitzer but their heart belongs to Hedda Hopper

Posted by: Luciferous at May 4, 2005 1:42 PM

I agree. Anonymous sources are much too valuable to the MSM as a driver of anti-Bush sentiment. Call me a cynic, but I suspect many of the quotes and much of the information from anonymous sources exist only in the minds of reporters.

Posted by: Rick T. at May 4, 2005 3:12 PM