There’s an interesting article from the Times about the paper’s misuse of anonymous sources. Clark Hoyt, the public editor, opens up with this: “The Times has a tough policy on anonymous sources, but continues to fall down in living up to it. That’s my conclusion after scanning a sampling of articles published in all sections of the paper since the first of the year. This will not surprise the many readers who complain to me that the paper lets too many of its sources hide from public view.” He points to three recent examples, a woman grant anonymity after describing a NYC apartment lobby as a “den of hell”, a Yankees official who got to anonymously shit on Alex Rodriguez and a general lack of expalantion around the granting of anonymity (“The policy says rote references to sources who ‘insisted on anonymity’ or ‘demanded anonymity’ should be avoided because they ‘offer the reader no help and make our decisions appear automatic.'”)
He also mentions David Brooks granting Obama anonymity (he listed him as a “top government official”) when he went to visit the White House. The nytpicker took Brooks to task for this (as well as for telling everyone he got Obama’s autograph), explaining “at the risk of seeming excessively purist or humorless, accepting Obama’s autograph at an off-the-record encounter strikes us as kind of wrong. It was bad enough that Brooks let the president go off the record, but we’ll leave that to Hoyt to sort out. The autograph issue may seem less egregious, but as symbolism it’s hard to ignore. Can you imagine Frank Rich or Maureen Dowd or Paul Krugman bragging to readers about accepting an autograph from a sitting president? Of course you can’t.” The inner workings of newspapers are really interesting (it’s really a shame the last season of The Wire sucked so bad).