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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

oy vey 

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No anonymous sources


It is this culture of anonymity, not the subpoena-wielding special prosecutors of the world, that poses the most serious danger imaginable to our First Amendment rights and our credibility as journalists. The culture of anonymity empowers political figures and hacks to lie, slander and abuse the public trust with impunity. The culture of anonymity empowers journalists with political agendas or penchants for laziness to generate front-page stories without going the extra mile to get the stories on the record, to verify the sources, or to reveal the motives of those sources or the credibility of their information. The culture of anonymity encouraged the New York Times to defend Judy Miller blindly, proving the old saw that bad facts make bad law -- pushing these sorts of highly questionable cases (in which Miller is, bottom line, a crime witness) is the surest way possible to generate unfavorable court rulings and thereby undermine our ability to protect legitimate anonymous sources in important stories. And what's the bottom line result of the journalistic culture of anonymity? It brought us Iraq WMDs, Wen Ho Lee, Richard Jewell, Whitewater and an endless parade of front-page "revelations" that turned out not only to be bogus, but to have had enormous negative impacts on individuals and nations -- shouting Fire! when there is no fire.

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Comments:
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