The New York Times ombudsman takes on his own paper again for its flagrant use of anonymous sourcing. Here’s the worst recent example:
Last Sunday, The Times profiled Mary Kay Gallagher, a 90-year-old real estate broker in a historic Brooklyn neighborhood. Gallagher was portrayed as tough and civic-minded. According to the article, “some say” she saved the neighborhood from apartment buildings and having its landmark homes cut into boarding houses. But it added, “Others say she unfairly steered minority buyers from the best properties.”
Neither “some” nor “others” were identified. Gallagher defended herself in the article, saying she sold to blacks, to Asians, to Jews and to Republicans. “I don’t think I’m racist,” she said.
Ben Smith, a reporter for Politico — who uses anonymous sources, and has been burned by them — wrote to say he was shocked that The Times would put Gallagher in the position of denying a faceless charge of racism, one that could get her in serious trouble if it were true. Smith, who lives in the neighborhood and knows Gallagher, said, “It strikes me as a classic trick, unworthy of The Times.”
Yes — allowing unnamed sources make personal allegations is certainly the worst journalistic violation. Nice to see Clark Hoyt using his position to push this newspaper on this issue.