The New York Times's crackdown on unnamed sources still not going well | Bleader

Monday, February 23, 2015

The New York Times's crackdown on unnamed sources still not going well

Posted By on 02.23.15 at 08:00 AM

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The New York Times pretends it has a policy against using unnamed sources that readers should respect. Times readers don't, its own ombudsman ("public editor" Margaret Sullivan) doesn't (as I noted just a month ago), and I've been making fun of it for years.

The Times pretends it protects a source only as a "last resort." The source must have a compelling reason for requesting anonymity and the Times must agree with it. The Times should stop pretending.

I read a Times story the other day and heard that tinny bottom-of-the-barrel sound. It went like this:

The producers of Richard Linklater's "Boyhood," also a nominee for best picture, once hoped to land that movie with an awards-savvy distributor. And they figured Fox Searchlight, the small-films unit of 21st Century Fox, was the best option, according to people briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality strictures.

Confidentiality strictures is blather that can mean anything. Here it's a fancy way of saying they were expected to keep their mouths shut but didn't want to. And that's how the Times justified an inessential detail in an inessential story. Here's a better last resort: cut the paragraph or spike the story.

Or spike the policy. We all understand people like to blab and not get caught and that these people are a reporter's best friends. Skip the excuses that insult our intelligence.

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