Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Shouldn’t Reporters Be Angry When Their Anonymous Sources Lie?

 

Hello Ricochet folks, thanks for opening this! I’ve been a silent, lurking, paying member for seven years because I want to fund my favorite podcasts and I’ve never had anything interesting to contribute. After reading the following, you may conclude that I still don’t have anything interesting to contribute. 

I understand that it may sometimes be legitimate to report stories that are anonymously sourced. Such sources may be more reasonably used when the reporter knows the source’s job title and proximity to the details in question, or perhaps when a source has previously earned the reporter’s trust. I’m curious, however, about a few things:

  1. What obligation does a reporter have to an anonymous source who provides information that is later proven to be false?
  2. Should such a source be “outed” by the reporter?
  3. For what reason would a reporter continue to protect the anonymity of a source that intentionally caused them to report erroneously?
  4. If a reporter is made aware that an anonymous source has lied, should the reporter be additionally obligated to determine whether other stories have been furnished by the now-tainted source?
  5. Should news consumers be alerted to other stories — that the reporter now knows — should be treated with additional suspicion?

Two recent examples…

Example 1: Comey sought more resources for Russia probe days before he was fired by President Trump

We have subsequently learned that:

  • The Justice Department has flatly denied that Comey met with Rosenstein to ask for more resources. “I want to address the media claims that the FBI asked for additional resources for the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. I’m not aware of any such request,” Rosenstein said, according to his released remarks.
  • The anonymous claim appears to have been made with ignorance of how the Bureau manages finances and resources. The FBI’s resource requests are made in their budget. They don’t make case-specific requests in the middle of the budget period.

So now, 

  • Shouldn’t we hear about the “… four congressional officials …” who victimized the unsuspecting Matthew Rosenberg and Matt Apuzzo?
  • Shouldn’t we hear about the “… senior congressional official with direct knowledge …” who made a fool of well-intentioned Ken Dilanian?
  • Shouldn’t we hear about the “… two officials with knowledge of the discussion …” who bamboozled Ashley Parker?
  • If not, shouldn’t these reporters be asked to explain why not?

Example 2: Comey never told Trump that he was not under investigation

Comey expected to refute Trump By Gloria Borger, Eric Lichtblau, Jake Tapper and Brian Rokus, CNN

We have subsequently learned that:

  • Comey testified that he personally told President Trump he was not under investigation on three occasions.

So now, shouldn’t Gloria Borger, Eric Lichtblau, Jake Tapper and Brian Rokus be motivated to tell us who hoodwinked them? If not, shouldn’t they be asked to explain why not?

There are 44 comments.

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  1. tigerlily Member

    Welcome Aboard Andrew! Can’t help ya on your questions except to say those reporters now have egg on their faces and at the very least they should acknowledge the errors in their reporting.

    • #1
    • June 8, 2017, at 11:49 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    Very good questions. For the first three, I think the reporter had better know who his sources are and keep score. Do they need to out the source after being proven wrong? No, but it is an option.

    As for these questions:

    Andrew Lanz:

    • If a reporter is made aware that an anonymous source has lied, should the reporter be additionally obligated to determine whether other stories have been furnished by the now-tainted source?
    • Should news consumers be alerted to other stories – that the reporter now knows – should be treated with additional suspicion?

    Yes and yes.

    • #2
    • June 9, 2017, at 12:13 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. Poindexter Inactive

    The anonymous sources could probably dish some embarrassing dirt on the reporters, like “He/she was desperate for anything that would hurt Trump and kept putting words in my mouth!”

    • #3
    • June 9, 2017, at 12:22 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Dorrk Member

    If Trump had a competent communications team, they would start off every press conference with a “corrections dept.”, during which they would concisely, intelligently and good naturedly confront the media with their misreporting in situations like these. Too often, reporters just sweep these things under the rug as they pursue their next “scoop,” and the only organization with the power to shine a light on them is the Trump admin. Calling them “fake news” may be catchy, but it’s insubstantial.

    • #4
    • June 9, 2017, at 2:22 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  5. Brian Clendinen Member
    Brian Clendinen Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You are assuming that most headlines/political pieces are actually written by real journalist. Most Washington beat writers are just gossip columnist pretending to be journalist. The problem is they write and talk about their pieces as if it was real reporting instead of what they actually due. They pretty much only write rumors and the occasional (but much more frequently now) conspiracy theory. They can get by pretending to be real journalist because they put out some pieces that actually are real journalism which they completely steal from others who are doing real journalism.

    For the most part when your see anonymous source, replace it with rumor. Rumors can be true but it still does not stop them from being rumors until they are supported by valid sources.

    • #5
    • June 9, 2017, at 2:44 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Profile Photo Member

    I am responding to your questions below in red. But this is a little like Alice through the looking glass because your questions presume ethics in media while I have come to the conclusion that these people are journalists because they are not morally qualified for prostitution.

    Andrew Lanz:

    • What obligation does a reporter have to an anonymous source who provides information that is later proven to be false? None whatsoever. A “journalist’s” duty should be to truth. Sources who cause the journalist to lie to their readers have betrayed them and are entitled to nothing.
    • Should such a source be “outed” by the reporter? Outed and dragged through the public square in shame.
    • For what reason would a reporter continue to protect the anonymity of a source that intentionally caused them to report erroneously? Because the “reporter” is not interested in reporting actual events unless they support that reporter’s political narrative and if the actual events don’t support the narrative a convenient lie will do.
    • If a reporter is made aware that an anonymous source has lied, should the reporter be additionally obligated to determine whether other stories have been furnished by the now-tainted source? Yes, but again we are talking as if we are in a world in which the reporter cares about the lies rather than seeing their name in the byline. We are also assuming their actually is a “source.”
    • Should news consumers be alerted to other stories – that the reporter now knows – should be treated with additional suspicion? See last answer.

    Personally, I am about done with newspapers and on line news. Gives me more time to read books.

    • #6
    • June 9, 2017, at 3:46 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  7. NigelT Member

    Unfortunately, “the truth” is way down the list of things these reporters are concerned about.

    • #7
    • June 9, 2017, at 3:47 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  8. Seawriter Contributor

    You are wrong about one thing. That we may conclude you didn’t have anything interesting to contribute. This is interesting to read.

    Consider posting again, and don’t wait seven years.

    Seawriter

    • #8
    • June 9, 2017, at 3:50 AM PDT
    • 27 likes
  9. WI Con Member
    WI Con Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’ve thought much the same thing @AndrewLanz . You did a better job of developing the idea than me. I think it goes to show you just how biased reporters are – on both sides of aisle.

    • #9
    • June 9, 2017, at 4:06 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  10. Kozak Member
    Kozak Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    NigelT (View Comment):
    Unfortunately, “the truth” is way down the list of things these reporters are concerned about.

    I would say it’s not on the list at all.

    • #10
    • June 9, 2017, at 4:27 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. PHenry Member

    There was a time when anything from anonymous sources had to be verified by multiple sources and even then was couched in ‘alleged’ descriptives. Now, if a single source offers up information that fits the journalists previous assumptions, it is reported as a scoop.

    For example, Dan Rather and the Killian / Bush National Guard docs. He just knew they were true, because they matched what he suspected. So verification wasn’t necessary. ( Remember? Fake but accurate!)

    That isn’t journalism, that is political propaganda.

    • #11
    • June 9, 2017, at 6:05 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  12. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Great post – thanks.

    • #12
    • June 9, 2017, at 6:38 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    We have very few journalist in America. Mainly we have political operatives with press credentials. I suspect it has always been this way to some degree but in the age of the internet the Democrat propaganda machine and its operatives is becoming more apparent to the public.

    • #13
    • June 9, 2017, at 6:39 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Good post, Andrew. (“Welcoming” someone who joined four months before I did seems a little goofy.)”

    I wonder how many “unnamed sources” our corps of journalists will inflict on us in the future, seeing as how damaged the paradigm is at this point. Do they request anonymity because they fear reprisal, or because they don’t want their fingerprints on the lies when the truth comes out?

    • #14
    • June 9, 2017, at 7:07 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  15. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Our local TV news leads every story with the banner “Breaking News.” However, the stories often amount to little more than breathless guesswork, especially when the news is developing. My clever wife decided they should call it all “Breaking Speculation.”

    • #15
    • June 9, 2017, at 8:22 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  16. blood thirsty neocon Inactive

    Shouldn’t John’s be angry when their prostitute provides unsatisfactory service?

    • #16
    • June 9, 2017, at 11:50 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. cdor Member
    cdor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Andrew Lanz: Hello Ricochet folks, thanks for opening this! I’ve been a silent, lurking, paying member for seven years because I want to fund my favorite podcasts and I’ve never had anything interesting to contribute. After reading the following, you may conclude that I still don’t have anything interesting to contribute.

    Wow Andrew!! I haven’t read your post yet, but my goodness was it interesting!! Thanks for contributing.

    • #17
    • June 9, 2017, at 11:53 AM PDT
    • Like
  18. cdor Member
    cdor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    NigelT (View Comment):
    But this is a little like Alice through the looking glass because your questions presume ethics in media while I have come to the conclusion that these people are journalists because they are not morally qualified for prostitution.

    Now that’s funny.

    • #18
    • June 9, 2017, at 11:59 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. PHenry Member

    Your first post and it hit the main feed? Congratulations!

    • #19
    • June 9, 2017, at 12:01 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. DrewInWisconsin, Ham-Fisted Bu… Coolidge

    Shouldn’t Reporters Be Angry When Their Anonymous Sources Lie?

    This presumes that those sources actually exist. I presume that most of the time a reporter’s anonymous source is himself.

    • #20
    • June 9, 2017, at 12:02 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  21. PHenry Member

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    This presumes that those sources actually exist. I presume that most of the time a reporter’s anonymous source is himself.

    News reports these days should start “A little birdie told me…”

    • #21
    • June 9, 2017, at 12:03 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. cdor Member
    cdor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A reporter with a sense of honor would at least write a mea culpa to his readers. I haven’t seen any of that lately. In lieu of an apology, the discerning consumer should stop reading those reporters’ bylines. Good questions, Andrew. I’ll bet you wonder why others aren’t asking them as well.

    • #22
    • June 9, 2017, at 12:07 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. Bob Thompson Member

    I’d enjoy Mona’s viewpoint on your questions. I think they are good questions.

    • #23
    • June 9, 2017, at 12:23 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. Jager Coolidge
    Jager Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    cdor (View Comment):
    A reporter with a sense of honor would at least write a mea culpa to his readers. I haven’t seen any of that lately. In lieu of an apology, the discerning consumer should stop reading those reporters’ bylines. Good questions, Andrew. I’ll bet you wonder why others aren’t asking them as well.

    After McMaster stated Trump did not know the source of the intelligence and thus could not give it up to the Russians, the Washington Post simply called him a liar and stated that they stood by their story and unnamed sources.

    • #24
    • June 9, 2017, at 12:47 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Andrew Lanz: If a reporter is made aware that an anonymous source has lied, should the reporter be additionally obligated to determine whether other stories have been furnished by the now-tainted source?

    Obligated? By whom? Morally obligated? Pardon me while I RTOFL.

    As Glenn Reynolds puts it: “Think of them as Democrat Party operatives with bylines.”

    Rush keeps saying that it’s the media in the drivers’ seat. They are the ones setting the agenda by what they write and don’t write. The problem is the failure of the Democrat Party to elect the officials to advance the agenda. The media thinks the way to do that is another left turn.

    • #25
    • June 9, 2017, at 1:01 PM PDT
    • Like
  26. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The press has always been filled with charlatans, hucksters and dishonorable people.

    We’ve seen this chum in the water activity before. Read up on Louis Seltzer and his shameful behavior during his tenure as editor of The Cleveland Press. The Sam Sheppard murder trial is a textbook for both lawyers and journalists alike.

    • #26
    • June 9, 2017, at 1:14 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. blood thirsty neocon Inactive

    Shouldn’t NT’s apologize for relying on inaccurate reporting?

    • #27
    • June 9, 2017, at 1:37 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Jim Beck Member

    Evening Andrew,

    If we ask, “how is an article written?”, then the answer is the veracity of a source is irrelevant. If we want a story on how x will increase the number of homeless, we find some expert who will give us a compelling story full of sorrow, or we will hunt for someone who is homeless to feature (this is harder because we actually have to seek out a good looking subject {a sane, sober, homeless mom with two kids}), or we find/invent an anonymous source who works in the government who will tell that x program was passed knowing that it might hurt the homeless. The last journalistic tact is the best because it creates victims and oppressors and is the favorite story making the journalist the shining knight. So what if the story is found or revealed to be false, many folks will not catch up with the correction and even those who do might not blame the journalist, and the journalist knows this so inventing sources is almost without cost. Journalists never call out or shun the practitioners who are corrupt, even though this is widely know.

    One of the most wonderful things about Trump is that he said the the media is anti-American and the media are doing their best to prove him right. There is/was a satire sight called ScrappleFace, from June 4, 2007, by Scott Ott: Title: “NY Times May Exhaust Ways to Undercut War Effort”. First sentence: Editors at The New York Times are reportedly concerned that the nation’s “paper of record” may run out of ways to undercut the U.S. war effort in Iraq before the November 2008 presidential elections, and perhas much sooner………” This satire is so close to the truth that it is discouraging, I will be 70 in a few months and I do not know a war that our media has not tried to undercut, Nam, Cold, Iraq, etc.

    • #28
    • June 9, 2017, at 1:50 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. quikwit Inactive

    Nice job summarizing a few leaks that turned out to be false. May I add another?

    Example 3: Rosenstein threatened to resign when forced to write Comey’s firing letter

    Inside Trump’s anger and impatience — and his sudden decision to fire Comey By Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Sari Horwitz and Robert Costa, Washington Post | May 10 | Source = a “person close to the White House”

    We have subsequently learned that:

    When asked by Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Michelle Macaluso about reports that claim otherwise, he stated “no, I’m not quitting.”

    Macaluso: Did you threaten to quit?

    Rosenstein: No.

    So now, shouldn’t Rucker, Parker, Horwitz and Costa be asking their source why he/she told them a story which was directly contradicted by the person involved.

    Also: the info about McMaster & the intelligence source mentioned by @Jager above.

    • #29
    • June 9, 2017, at 2:20 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Who are you going to believe? The principal people involved, or the imaginary friends of the Fourth Estate?

    • #30
    • June 9, 2017, at 2:45 PM PDT
    • 3 likes

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