I’m going to write my dissertation on the use of anonymous sources — a practice I’d like to see curtailed.
Decided to check Wikipedia to see if the site has a collection of incidents in which anonymous sources turned out to be wrong. Incredibly, they don’t. They do have this great list of journalism scandals — but those deal more with outright fabrications.
So, I’ve decided to start a section on anonymous sources. I put it in the journalism sourcing section. Here’s what I wrote:
The use of anonymous sources has been a controversial subject for many years. Some news outlets insist that anonymous sources are required to get certain information while others hold strict prohibitions against the use of unnamed sources at all times. News outlets are often embarrassed by a report from an anonymous source that turns out to be wrong. For instance, much of the O.J. Simpson reporting from unnamed sources was later deemed inaccurate. Newsweek retracted a story about a Qur’an being flushed down a toilet that led to riots in the Middle East. The Qur’an desecration controversy of 2005 was based upon one unnamed military source. The L.A. Times retracted an article that implicated Sean “Diddy” Combs in the beating of Tupac Shakur. The original article was based on documents and a large assortment of unnamed sources. When reporting on the original story, the Associated Press noted that “[n]one of the sources was named.” After the embarrassment, news organization will often “clamp down” on the guidelines for using unnamed sources, but those guidelines are often forgotten after the scandal dies down.
I’d like to have this moved to its own entry, but I figured I’d start small. Don’t want to upset those wikipedians.
If you can think of any other good ones, please feel free to add them. Or, just let me know any examples you can remember I’ll add them.