Monday, November 9, 2009

Can You Trust Anonymous Sources?

THE WASHINGTON POST has done amazing investigative work over the years, often citing anonymous sources. Their work breaking the Watergate Scandal inspired a generation of muckraking journalists, and spawned a Hollywood hit, All the President's Men.

But do they rely upon anonymous sources too much?

A reader wrote an email to the paper's ombudsman recently, saying, "While it is sometimes needed, I believe it is not appropriate to hide the names of sources to the extent that The Post does."

The Post justifies their action by saying that, to gain trust from sources, they must keep them anonymous. It's the only way to get some information, to continue being watchdogs of power.

But do you, as a consumer of information, trust information that is labeled as being from unnamed sources? Are you skeptical that the information is fake?

8 comments:

Joe said...

Anonymous sources are definitely sketchy, but when coverage takes down a whole administration, like Woodward and Bernstein's, I think it's forgivable.

Rosella Eleanor LaFevre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fatia said...

I believe that it is not necessary for the Washington Post to make everything an everything an anonymous source... Of course i would be skeptical to trust a news corporation that has an anonymous source.I compare it to wikipedia where anyone can post in formation about anything!

Aleks Molnar said...

If anonymity isn't protecting a person's life, family, career, or anything else along those lines, there's little justification for it.

I feel like using anonymous sources is more of a stunt to shroud some mystery over the stories and make them more marketable.

Obviously it works for The Post, but it's pretty lame journalism to hide behind it all the time if you ask me.

Lisa Jiang said...

Although i would be a little skeptical about it, I understand that a journalist has to keep his/her word. Otherwise, you wouldn't seem trustworthy and you would lose all your sources.

Megan McNerney said...

Just because the source is anonymous does not mean that the source is fake. Sometimes people need to stay anonymous for safety reasons. If there are no safety reasons involved though, i believe that people shouldn't hide their names.

Wafai Dias said...

When I read an article by an Anonymous source it just shows me how powerful and effective the story is. There are just times that you have to have an Anonymous source. Like if I was going to report on the Watergate scandal I would've withheld my name. I don't think these stories are fake unless it turns out that they are actually fake.

Anonymous said...

FELICIA TOPSALE SAYS............... I think that is a good question. Journalist wouldn't have as many stories if they had to reveal all of their sources but there should be a way to verify anonymous sources through another editor without the public learning the rtrue identity of the person because if another person is responsible for lying, publications may be more careful if they know there is more than one person accountable if they are caught in a lie.