Anonymous Sources

ANONYMOUS SOURCES….Still wondering if the Killian memos are fake? Check out this Washington Post graphic. It’s about the most devastating single indictment I’ve seen yet.

Why do I mention this? To bring up a bit of navel gazing. You see, most bloggers seem to agree that if an anonymous source burns you, it’s OK to name the source. In fact, you should name the source, as a warning to future sources that their anonymity is contingent on them not lying to you.

That sounds fine in theory, but sometimes theory comes home to roost. Last Thursday someone called me for the sole purpose of assuring me that CBS’s source for the Killian memos was absolutely rock solid and had been vetted nine ways to Sunday. I should, I was told, feel comfortable blogging my heart out about the content of the memos without worrying about their authenticity.

As it happens, I declined to take that advice, but that’s not what matters. What does matter is that my caller clearly knew that CBS’s vetting was a judgment call, not a slam dunk, but was spinning very hard to convince me otherwise.

Now, this is a trivial example of anonymous sourcing that won’t shed any new light on the overall story no matter what I do, but it does make the theoretical case for revealing anonymous sources a little more concrete, doesn’t it? Was what happened to me just ordinary spin, or was it deceitful enough that it deserves being outed? And is the case against the memos now strong enough to justify breaking an agreement to talk off the record?

Hmmm….