ReliableAnonymous Sources

Just in time to join the Newsweek party comes a new survey that finds that – shocker! – the public doesn’t trust anonymous sources. According to this story in Editor & Publisher, “a solid 53% of the public think stories with unnamed sources should not be published at all.”

Relaying the findings of a new study highlighting the gap between journalists and their reading public, the article pointed out that 74% of journalists and 89% of the public would question the accuracy of a story based on anonymous sourcing.

In more media-bashing, sixty percent of the “public” surveyed thinks that the press shows bias in reporting, and only 40% believe the media does a good job on accuracy. Fine, fine. But check this out: 43% of the American public thinks the press has too much freedom, and 22% think the government should be allowed to censor the press.

Say what?

Perhaps that’s because only 14% of them know that “freedom of the press” is protected in their first amendment rights in the Constitution. You know, that thing that PROTECTS THEM FROM THE GOVERNMENT.

The thing about anonymous sources is that everyone seems to have forgotten is, they’re usually not anonymous to the reporter. It’s just usually the only way for the truth to come out without some poor sap’s ass in a sling as a result. It’s how whistles are blown and shadowy conspiracies exposed (come on, you watch Alias, don’t you?).

In the case of Newsweek, a little perspective: (a) the anonymous source had been historically reliable; (b) the May 9th item had been presented to two government officials – a SouthCom official and a senior Defense official – without comment; and (c) even when the source recanted and said he didn’t recall if he’d seen it in the SouthCom report, he didn’t say he hadn’t seen it; that is, he said it “might have been in other investigative documents or drafts.” Was this story impeccably sourced? Obviously not, given what’s happened. But if a heretofore reliable source says he’s seen something in a document, chances are it’s not complete hogwash (especially since the other Gitmo abuses check out and, as reported on CNN this morning, the Pentagon said that “the Qu’ran may have been moved…” by U.S. personnel).

Upshot: Anonymous sources: good or bad? Hard to say. That’s the point. Whew! Where’s Gutfeld, thinking about important media things is exhausting. And depressing.