I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of getting my news from anonymous sources. I want to know who is giving reporters their information. Very simply, it adds credibility to what they are saying.
On one day last week, I read three articles in a Denver newspaper that used anonymous sources as the attribution. I’m not talking about local reporters or citizen journalists who do this. In these cases, I’m talking about professional reporters who work for McClatchy Newspapers and The Washington Post.
The attribution in one article really triggered my ire. In one instance, it said: “Three senior officials told McClatchy, along with others speaking anonymously as a matter of policy.” A senior official could be the chief of the cleaning crew, for all I know. And why is it policy for people to speak anonymously?
A second attribution in that same article read: “A White House official who spoke with reporters in a conference call.” That official was never identified by name. Come on! You’re on a conference call with reporters. Let the reporters use your name. And you reporters, why are you letting these people off the hook?
Another article had attribution that was even more vague. In just one article, I read information from “sources familiar with the conversations,” “those close to him” and “even his most ardent opponents.” This article even included a line: “there is broad agreement,” but never did it give anyone’s name.
Enough! This use of anonymous sources is becoming a crutch and a lazy way out.
When I train citizen journalists, I tell them to find sources who will let them use their names. If they interview individuals who request anonymity, I tell them to look for another source who has the same information and will allow his or her name to be used.
With proper attribution, the public will be more informed because they will know exactly where the information came from. Information is always more credible with identified sources. And usually, there is almost always someone else who knows the same information and will agree to be quoted by name.