Feb
24
2012

Tell the NY Times: Follow Your Own Rules on Anonymity

FAIR's new Action Alert points out that the New York Times has abused its own policies on anonymity to allow government officials to smear critics. We're encouraging people to write to the Times public editor. Please post your letters to the Times in the comments section below.

Nov
14
2011

Chelsea Clinton, TV Reporter

The New York Times reports that Chelsea Clinton will be a full time special correspondent for NBC News, starting more or less immediately. Salon's Glenn Greenwald connected this news to the media careers of Meghan McCain (MSNBC), Luke Russert (NBC) and Jenna Bush Hager (NBC), and reached this conclusion about the state of our meritocracy: We all owe our gratitude to NBC News for single-handedly correcting the shameful, long-standing exclusion from our media discourse of the views of young, journalistically accomplished heirs and heiresses to political power and great fortune; it is long overdue that former NYT executive editor Bill […]

Aug
31
2011

The Libya Rebels and Al-Qaeda, Anonymously

FAIR editor Jim Naureckas tweeted recently, "NATO's installation of an Al Qaeda-friendly government in Libya is one of 2011's most underreported stories." He's got a point. The Washington Post today published a pretty interesting look at how the Libyan government viewed the jihadist threat, thanks to some documents recovered in Tripoli: The documents were uncovered days after the regime fell to rebel fighters led in part by a self-proclaimed former Islamist, Abdelkarim Belhadj. He has declared himself the leader of the "Tripoli Brigade" that spearheaded the defeat of Gadhafi loyalists in the capital. Belhadj is the former commander of the […]

Aug
04
2011

Anonymous Frankness at the Washington Post

U.S. officials seem to be making progress in convincing Iraqi politicians to let some troops stay in Iraq beyond the December withdrawal deadline. The Washington Post weighs in today (8/4/11) and gets some anonymous straight talk: "There seems to be broad partnerships and political coalitions emerging that take tough decisions," said a senior U.S. Embassy official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the issue frankly. Of course, one way of reading that justification for anonymity is that an official speaking on the record would be less than frank. If that's worth granting a source anonymity, then it […]

Jul
29
2011

Iran Helping Iraqi Insurgents…Make That Al-Qaeda

"Iran arming Iraq insurgents"was last month's story. Today's papers are telling a different story; the new line being pushed by U.S. officials is that Iran is supporting Al-Qaeda. Today's Washington Post: Iran Allows Money, Recruits to Reach Al-Qaeda, U.S. Says 'Secret deal' allegedly supports activities of terrorists in Pakistan In the New York Times: Treasury Accuses Iran of Aiding Al-Qaeda Associated Press: U.S. Accuses Iran of 'Secret Deal' With Al-Qaeda The Post calls this "the most serious U.S. allegation to date of Iranian aid to the terrorist group"– though it later notes that "U.S. officials have repeatedly accused Iran of […]

Jun
10
2011

Anonymous NATO: We Don't Know Who Bombed That Tent

From the L.A. Times (6/9/11): A tattered tent, shreds of carpet and other scorched debris were all that were left of a favored retreat of Moammar Gadhafi just outside the Libyan capital, the aftermath of what appeared to be a NATO bombing run. Was the usually idyllic nature preserve a "command and control" center used by the Libyan military? Or was this an example of NATO attempting to assassinate the longtime Libyan dictator? A NATO official reached in Naples, Italy, late Wednesday emphasized that the Western alliance does not target people for killings, and the official would not confirm that […]

Jun
03
2011

WaPo Reports Good News for WaPo Co.

A headline today at the Washington Post (6/3/11) reads, "A Reprieve for Higher-Ed Companies?" A more honest headline might have been, "A Reprieve for Us?" The story discusses congressional action on a bill that would increase oversight of private, for-profit colleges, since many students take out government-subsidized student loans in order to attend such schools. Critics argue that the schools do a poor job of preparing students for the workforce. The Post discloses its interests, though a bit late–in the 14th paragraph of a 22-paragraph story: "Half a dozen leading firms in for-profit education–including the Washington Post Co. on behalf […]

Apr
01
2011

Nameless Sources Are the Custom at WashPost

The Washington Post's Greg Jaffe (4/1/11): Some of the United States' partners have acknowledged that the initial descriptions of the intervention in Libya no longer apply. "What is happening in Libya is not a no-fly zone," a senior European diplomat told reporters, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity. "The no-fly zone was a diplomatic thing, to get the Arabs on board. What we have in Libya is more than that." Is"customary" anonymity something like,"Now I can tell you the truth?" (In case you're curious, the Washington Post's official policy on anonymous sourcing is that "granting anonymity to a source […]

Feb
15
2011

WaPo's Anonymous Source Trashes TARP Watchdog

From the Washington Post piece today (2/15/11) about TARP inspector general Neil Barofsky's resignation: "We're fine with critics," said one Treasury official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak more candidly. "[But] he's been consistently wrong about a lot of big things." That's a prettyserious charge to level atsomeone–which is probablywhy you'd do so anonymously, since then youdon't have to back it up. Why the Post would print it is another matter entirely. Thefact that they would refer to this as a "candid" assessment is totally puzzling. Read the rest of the article, though, and you come […]

Jan
25
2011

Adventures in Absurd Anonymity, Continued

Anonymous Israeli officials are weighing in at the New York Times today. Let's remember the Times has some rules regarding the use of anonymous sources: The use of unidentified sources is reserved for situations in which the newspaper could not otherwise print information it considers reliable and newsworthy. When we use such sources, we accept an obligation not only to convince a reader of their reliability but also to convey what we can learn of their motivation–as much as we can supply to let a reader know whether the sources have a clear point of view on the issue under […]

Dec
02
2010

NYT: Defining Internet Openness Downward

The lead of the New York Times story today (12/2/10) on the FCC's new internet plan: The plan from the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to ensure an open and neutral Internet drew mixed reviews on Wednesday from consumer advocates and Internet service providers, presenting the agency with an uncertain way forward as it considers new broadband regulation. Of course, there are many who think the plan most assuredlydoes not "ensure an open and neutral Internet"–leading to some decidedly unmixed reviews. See the response from Free Press president Josh Silver, for instance: "FCC Chairman Announces Fake Net Neutrality Proposal." […]

Nov
29
2010

WPost's Redundant Anonymity Explanation

From one of the Washington Post's stories about WikiLeaks: A senior U.S. intelligence officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be identified, said: "No one should think of American diplomats as spies. But our diplomats do, in fact, help add to our country's body of knowledge on a wide range of important issues. That's logical and entirely appropriate, and they do so in strict accord with American law." The source is anonymous because he must remain…anonymous. Got it.

Oct
04
2010

NYT Lets Fox Go Anonymous to Trash-Talk Obama

You may have heard that Barack Obama shared some thoughts about Fox News Channel in a recent interview with Rolling Stone. When asked about the channel, Obama pointed out that media outlets with a political perspective have been relatively common throughout U.S. history, but that he believed Fox's perspective is "ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class." The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg had a piece (10/2/10) on Fox's political activism this year–particularly News Corp's million-dollar donations to the Republican Governors' Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But Fox's response to […]