Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Says Who?

Anonymous sourcing has become an epidemic in traditional media reporting and it is making it more and more difficult to decipher the news.  Today, I read a report from Reuters that quoted a “senior US government official” who puts forth the idea that a preemptive strike on Iran by the US or “another country in the region” is likely in the future.  Now, how are we supposed to read that and have any confidence that this information is accurate let alone decipher what it means when we know nothing about this person other than the fact that they work for our government?  

Reuters didn’t cite a “senior White House official” or “senior Pentagon official” but rather just a government official, so I guess it’s possible that this report is based on a conversation a reporter had with an aide at the EPA or someone from the Department of Transportation, hell, it could have been an official from the office of Faith Based Initiatives for all we know.  Knowing who is providing information for a news story is important, yet reporters seem to have abandoned the idea that their job is to inform the public.  The overuse of anonymous sourcing has turned news reporting into mere gossip (or worse, propaganda), and we need more than that to truly be an informed citizenry capable of engaging productively with our government.

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