NY TimesAddiction to Anonymous Sources

Editor & Publisher takes on the NY Times.

"The real lesson from the Blair affair is that the Times' system for dealing with accuracy in its newspaper and discipline in its newsroom is badly broken -- if, indeed, any system exists. It's all very well to 'trust' reporters, as Times executives insistently declared, but the dull credulity top editors evinced throughout this episode suggests they have not learned the first thing the old hardscrabble City News Bureau in Chicago told its greenest recruits: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

"How is it, for instance, that The New York Times could be gulled into publishing on its front page a story accusing a teenager of being the triggerman in the Washington-area sniper attacks -- without any editor apparently ever asking the tyro reporter to identify these unnamed 'law-enforcement officials' he is quoting?

"One inescapable conclusion from this scandal is that the Times has developed an addictive tolerance for anonymous sources, the crack cocaine of journalism. The Times could not go cold turkey even in its extraordinary Mother's Day cataloging of Blair's journalistic sins, an occasion that cried out for 100% on-the-record reporting. For no apparent reason other than habit, an entirely innocuous e-mail message was attributed to 'one fellow reporter.'"


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