Mar
19
2012

NYT's Anonymous Drone Defenders

There is a big piece in the New York Times today (3/19/12) on the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. And, as has been the case before, the U.S. perspective comes via anonymous government officials: A senior American official in Washington said that the CIA had consistently taken precautions to reduce the risk to civilians, and noted that some strikes had killed Pakistan's insurgent enemies, too. "These efforts have been extremely precise and effective," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the program's covert status. And later readers get this: "The overriding concern is to avoid […]

Feb
22
2012

New NYT Rule: Anonymous Govt Sources Can Call Their Critics Terrorists

In today's New York Times report (2/22/12) about Khader Adnan–the Palestinian hunger striker challenging Israeli "administrative detention" practices–reporter Isabel Kershner allows this: An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, called the deal over Mr. Adnan "a workable arrangement" since ultimately he will be almost completing his four-month term of detention. "We faced a dilemma," the official said. "On the one hand we did not want any harm to come to him, or the wider danger in that. On the other hand it is not healthy to set a precedent that every time a Palestinian terrorist goes on hunger […]

Dec
12
2011

Great Moments in Campaign Journalism…

Three moments, actually: –NBC's Chuck Todd yesterday on Meet the Press (12/10/11), commenting on Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich: Well, first of all, those are a couple of nimble debaters. They are pretty good. I think we have seen it. This is the final two. I'm old enough to remember when Todd had the campaign narrowed down to a Top Three, way back in August: "We have a top tier. It is Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann." –ABC host Diane Sawyer, asked to describe (This Week, 12/11/11) the most revealing lesson she learned about the candidates after she […]

Dec
05
2011

Anonymous Experts Agree: Newt Gingrich Is Smart, Caring

Many big papers have rules about when reporters can use anonymous sources. It should be rare, and the information generated should be important and difficult to get without granting a source the privilege to speak anonymously. Of course, reality is different–as Janine Jackson documented in the new issue of Extra!. Anonymous sources supposedly aren't allowed to abuse the privilege to attack someone–and they also aren't, as Jackson noted, supposed to do the opposite: Both papers officially caution against special pleading and spin, along with quotations, as the Post rules have it, "whose only purpose is to add color to a […]

Nov
29
2011

Anonymously Explaining Pakistan Deaths

A New York Times piece today (11/29/11) about the U.S. airstrikes that apparently killed 24 Pakistani soldiers opens with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani speaking publicly about the incident, as does Pakistani military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. Readers are then treated to a lesson in how U.S. officials speak to important news outlets about an emerging, controversial story. They don't use their names. Instead, we hear from: "A United States official" who comments on the "growing frustration in Washington about the increasingly harsh language coming out of Islamabad." He "spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the need […]