Anonymous Sources

ANONYMOUS SOURCES….Both the New York Times and the Washington Post put rules in place a few months ago barring the use of anonymous sources unless there was a good (and stated) reason for them to be anonymous. Since then, one of my personal sources of amusement has been observing the contortions their reporters go through to explain why their anonymous sources want to stay anonymous.

Needless to say, the actual reason is always the same: the source is anonymous because he/she is afraid of getting in trouble for talking to the press. However, there seems to be an unwritten rule ? or perhaps it’s just a point of personal pride ? against using the exact same excuse more than once, which means that this basic reason gets recycled in dozens of different contorted ways. Today, however, in a story about Dan Rather’s future, Jacques Steinberg just gives up:

[Blah blah blah] said the executive, who requested anonymity out of fear of being fired at a time of turmoil at CBS News.

Attaboy, Jacques. He’s anonymous because he’ll get fired if his boss finds out he talked to you. That’s telling it like it is.

Anyway, I think that’s the end of the contest, and everyone should now give up trying to find different ways of justifying their blind quotes. After all, thinking up ever newer and more creative ways to say the same thing is just taking up brain cells that could be better used writing the actual stories.