ANONYMOUS SOURCES….A COUNTERPOINT….Yesterday I wrote a post suggesting that overuse of anonymous sources by the DC press corps wasn’t really anything new. In fact, if anything, it was more endemic in the 50s and 60s, but the big difference today is that greater press transparency has made the problem more obvious to news consumers.

A reader wrote in with a different perspective on this that I thought was worth sharing: namely, that while the use of anonymous sources isn’t necessarily more widespread today, it’s fueled by a different dynamic. Ironically, he wants his commentary to stay anonymous, but irony abounds these days, doesn’t it? Here it is.


I think there’s a different nuance to the issue of journos and anonymous sources over the years. In the middle third of the century, WWII and the Cold War ethos found journos, their MSM bosses and their government sources on the same side on the big issues of the day.

Today this isn’t what causes the problem; rather, it’s more competition for stature driving the business. The underpinning of the cable news-led 24 hour cycle ? when a wrong story is forgotten a day later ? gives journos more impetus to suck up to any insider source and eat up the bits that he gets. It isn’t that the journos are on the administration’s side; they just feel they can’t afford career-wise to be left out of “anonymous briefings” (involving 50 reporters) much less the “private and personal” phone call leaks that are made to 6 or 7 journos. The success of Fox shows why this works.

Certainly some of that was present before. But especially on national security issues, there wasn’t the drive to challenge among the press corps overall in the 1940s-60s. And they anyway had a full day to check stories before running them.

Today, this Bush administration has perfected the mastery of the 24 hour news cycle and this competition more than any before them, making beggars our of journalists, and giving them no time to check.

That makes the press as corrupt if not more today.

I’m a pretty experienced journo (mostly outside the country), now with a not so meaningful job in the capital, but colleagues and myself have been disgusted by the White House press corps’ behavior, its refusal to spread the word ? via bloggers would be best ? who the anonymous sources are for all kinds of news, and the inability of the big print media ? WP, NYT, LAT, Time and Newsweek ? to get together and start drawing lines on how much this convention will be allowed.