At least somebody is awake at the New York Times. Thank you, Public Editor:
The Times continues to hurt itself with readers by misusing anonymous sources.
I have received complaints about recent articles in which unnamed sources were allowed to 1) accuse a real estate agent of racial discrimination, 2) provide a letter from a dead man in the midst of a political controversy, and 3) discuss the press strategy of a politician who seeks to manipulate reporters with, among other tactics, off-the-record phone calls.
Despite written ground rules to the contrary and promises by top editors to do better, The Times continues to use anonymous sources for information available elsewhere on the record. It allows unnamed people to provide quotes of marginal news value and to remain hidden with little real explanation of their motives, their reliability, or the reasons why they must be anonymous.
Joe Walsh of Roslindale, Mass., wrote last week that reporters seem to have a ready list of reasons why sources can’t be named — not authorized to speak, ongoing negotiations and the like — that serve only to provide “both the source and the reporter with a veil of integrity.”