Here’s a useful website that automatically tracks the use of anonymous sources in news websites. The link automatically enters the New York Times as a source. Such a website could be useful for any academic thinking about tracking the use or misuse of unnamed sourcing
Terrible unnamed sourced reporting:
Porter, in his fifth year as running backs coach at LSU, is also assistant head coach and chief recruiter on Les Miles’ staff in Baton Rouge
An entire news article written based on one unidentified person without any verification. This should never have made it onto ESPN’s Web site, much less a televised report.
When I’m finished with my PhD, here’s a study I’ll conduct: I’ll examine a sample of sports articles attributed to anonymous sources, then check to see how many turned out to be accurate. Wonder what they percentage will be. Below 50 percent perhaps? Particularly around the trade deadlines…
The New York Times editorializes in favor of a federal shield law to protect journalists who use unnamed sources:
Without the ability of reporters and news organizations to protect confidential sources, many important reports about illegal, incompetent or embarrassing behavior that the government is determined to conceal would never see the light of day. In recent years, the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the secret C.I.A. prisons in Eastern Europe for terrorists and warrantless wiretapping all came to light through the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.
If reporters can be hauled into court and forced to reveal their sources, it makes it hard for them to gain the trust of people who have information that the public needs to know, and it makes it hard for their news organizations to publish or broadcast those reports.
The bipartisan bill is backed by Senators Arlen Specter, Democrat of Pennsylvania; Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York; Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina; and others. It would establish a calibrated right of reporters not to reveal the name of confidential sources. It already contains many conditions and qualifications to protect national security. For example, it expressly does not cover information gained from terrorists and agents of foreign powers.
My caveat: Under the law, who gets counted as a journalist? Do bloggers count? Will the United States government get to decide who is a “real” journalist and who doesn’t fit the bill? A troubling, unintended outcome of a federal shield law could be the de facto licensing of journalists.
So, the president called Kanye West a “Jackass” for his outburst at the Video Music Outwards. Or did he?
According to a Twitter update from a reporter, Obama did say this. But then, ABC News issued this statement:
In the process of reporting on remarks by President Obama that were made during a CNBC interview, ABC News employees prematurely tweeted a portion of those remarks that turned out to be from an off-the-record portion of the interview. This was done before our editorial process had been completed. That was wrong. We apologize to the White House and CNBC and are taking steps to ensure that it will not happen again.'”
So, he did say it, but it was off-the-record — so, he didn’t say it. Hmm.
One of the many problems with granting anonymity with news sources.