Anonymous sources run amuck

Categories: Media

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As a journalist, I recognize that it's sometimes necessary to use anonymous quotes, but they should be used rarely, and carefully. Which is why I was stunned to read this paragraph in a piece on Obama's foreign policy experience in the new issue of Newsweek:

Even some Dems who'd favor him in any contest against McCain also worry that Obama is overplaying his experience. "I don't know whether he's drinking his own Kool-Aid," says a former senior member of the Clinton administration who is not backing either Democratic candidate but would talk only on condition of anonymity because of his private-sector job. "I'm all for talking to the Cubans, or to the Iranians. I'm just not sure he's the guy to do it. The biggest administrative job he ever had was collecting articles for the Harvard Law Review."


Emphasis added. The idea that this source is "not backing either candidate" even though he worked for Hillary's husband stretches credulity--especially in light of the harshness of the quote. ("I don't know whether he's drinking his own Kool-Aid ... The biggest administrative job he ever had was collecting articles for the Harvard Law Review.").

Let's imagine if the shoe was on the other foot:

"I don't trust Hillary Clinton," said a anonymous source who used to work for Michelle Obama but is not supporting either candidate. "Didn't she just get caught lying about sniper fire?"

The thing is, the anonymous quote about Obama doesn't add anything to the article, except nastiness. It could easily have been excised, and should have been.



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