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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Please keep my name out of this

Reader-submitted question: why won't people go on-the-record?

Uh, maybe because you tell them they don't have to?

Journalists are supposed to be above all of the backbiting and anonymous sniping that happens on the Internet, but apparently you guys aren't. You're so desperate for quotes that you're covering for any idiot who wants to say any stupid thing.

I usually think this is funny, but I'm laughing AT you, not with you. The best part is that some of you work for news organisations that insist on reporting the reason the person should be anonymous. These are usually hilarious. From today's Washington Post:

An announcement of the deal to buy all or part of those businesses will be announced as early as Tuesday afternoon, the person said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because a final agreement had yet to be reached. Someone needs to explain to me how granting this person anonymity changes the deal. Or why the reporter couldn't just hold the story a few hours until someone was willing to speak on the record.

"We seem to be at a dead end," said a senior official with the United Nations in a telephone briefing for journalists. The official discussed the International Atomic Energy Agency's report on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivities involved. I'm sure that doing it this way was MUCH more diplomatically sensitive.

The Hamas officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the clash was ongoing and its details had not been officially cleared for publication. I can't tell what this means. Is it code for "we don't actually know if this is true"?

Other diplomats, who demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the closed meeting's details, described the information as credible but unverified. This quote could be the definition of "credible but unverified".

Anonymous potshots are not in the public interest, but they will continue as long as you allow them to. Think of it this way: Wouldn't you love to be able to criticise people without taking any responsibility for the things you say? These explanations about why people have to be protected are ridiculous. They're obviously stuffed into stories to cover your own butt with your editor or to make yourself look like an awesome reporter. We are not impressed by anonymous sources. We think you're lazy.

I know that reporters tend to think that anyone who speaks off the record is a courageous soul and a Friend Of The Media. You guys have been duped. These people are using you for their own purposes. Even Deep Throat had motives that weren't as pure as you hoped.

If I don't know who's speaking, I have no way to evaluate his or her information. Your readers deserve much more than you're giving them.

Thanks for your question.


The Coconut Diaries said...

I'd never seen articles with sources that requested anonymity. That's weird. It is very much takes away from your credibility if you have no responsibility for what you've said. Weird. I think this is why people dislike "the media".