Offering Anonymity Too Easily to Sources

June 2005
Nieman Reports;Summer2005, Vol. 59 Issue 2, p42
This article presents statements issued by several journalists and administrative officials in the U.S. regarding anonymous news sources. During his term as press secretary of U.S. President Bill Clinton, Mike McCurry was always offered anonymity and background by several reporters rather than asking for it. But he preferred to keep on the record as often as he can. McCurry believed that reporters should not offer background, and they should only get background when they really need it. In the face of accelerated news cycle, the competitiveness stories have moved so much over the last 25 years to analysis. McCurry considered it as a change in the culture of journalism that really has nothing to do with people in the government who are trying to be secretive. For Tom Blanton, director of the U.S. National Security Archive, the culture of secrecy is strong, and there are so many interests pushing it. According to him, there is a spectrum of secrecy on sources: some of it is necessary to protect whistleblowers, and some of its is really indefensible, which are the regular routine briefings that government officials give. The policies people are talking about are heading in the right direction, but Blanton suggests a further step--an obligation of the media to actually report about the process.


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