Monday, May 09, 2005

Finally the NYT Decides to Do Something About "Sources Say"

Okrent, "reader's advocate" (sic)

In "Stop the Presses" the Culture of Life News editor mocks the major media for using "sources say" all the time. I patiently explain this is a device the GOP uses to attack us liberals and others and it should cease. When Democratic shills are attacking liberals they use this magic cloaking device. It isn't to protect whistle blowers, it is to protect noxious attackers who don't want to have to pay for what they say since they are being smarmy or filthy.

So the NYT just announced today that they are joining the Associated Press in refusing to keep GOP operatives anonymous! about time. Geeze.

Credibility is also why many reporters will now acknowledge that the profession's worst habits must be broken - the vague descriptions of phantom sources, the readiness to disregard their motivations, the willingness to let them say what they wish without public accountability. White House correspondent David E. Sanger, much of whose recent work has been in the extremely sensitive area of nuclear proliferation, told me, "In the post-Iraq world" - the world in which artful leakers convinced reporters and their readers that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction - "using identifiers like 'intelligence officials' or 'officials with access to intelligence' just doesn't hack it."

But getting to the point where journalists incorporate this awareness into their work isn't easy. The psychic rewards a newsroom can bestow still go to the reporter who publishes something the competition doesn't have. Valuable sources, insisting on anonymity, continue to dangle tantalizing details as if they were biscuits offered to hungry dogs. Even background briefings have their appeal, when the alternative is a two-dimensional view of policy. Assistant secretary of state Richard A. Boucher told me that he and other officials are compelled to go on background "when describing views of other governments that are important to understand but for which we are not authorized to speak. Other governments might take exception when their views are characterized by our official spokesmen, but they can't object as easily when we're anonymous."

Work isn't easy as Bush likes to whine. The pretense that the NYT is desperately trying to "break stories" continues. Well, what happened to the Brit revelation about Bush and Blair conspiring to attack Iraq a year before they claimed they were alarmed about Iraq? Obviously, both men lied. I wait breathlessly for the NYT to run a serious series of articles about that. Yawn.

About nuclear proliferation: the only time the NYT should quote anonymous sources here is when they are uncovering crimes or lies within our super secret, lying nuclear bomb activities areas. I still am waiting for the NYT investigation about the $600+ million Bush spent on bomb shelters for himself and Cheney. Yawn.

The fiction that these anonymous clap trap is due to bomb sniffing reporters cornering people with information and forcing them to cough it up but hiding the identity so they can be safe is the silliest fairy tale the NYT has concocted yet. Even in the first paragraph they admit the GOP holds "off the record" sessions all the time. And all the media attend these dirty little tet-a-tets. And since all the media is there, it isn't an exclusive anymore, is it? Pure logic here. I wonder why this ability to reason x+y=0 eludes the well educated staff of the NYT. Where do they troll for employees?

David Leavy, who was National Security Council spokesman during the second Clinton term, agrees: "It's the law of political physics. You'll be a lot more forthcoming and rely on a lot less diplomatese if your name isn't attached to what you're saying." And, presumably, reporters (and readers) will learn much more. But policy makers want to get their story out, and even without the anonymity of a backgrounder, I bet they'll find a way.

Lordy. One thing America is short on is "diplomatese". Like "finesse" this Frenchie concept eludes us. We want to be the bull in the shit shop and so off we go, stampeding through the tulips crushing everything. Why does "learning more" require hiding behind the reporter's skirts? If this fools anyone it sure isn't the victim of the "sources say" stuff. They usually know who is saying it and why and wonder why the reporters funnel it. The hidden person and his or her enabler know perfectly well, the person being fooled is the reader. And fooling readers is hyper important to these players in the DC game.

Unfortunately for them, we have the internet. And instead of slogging along in the forums fighting with the NYT and getting banned if you annoy the staff there, we run our own news services on line, there is a host of us and we all are mad for various reasons at the NYT and the media in general. Only they refuse to understand who we are and why we do this.

They equate intelligent critics like myself with people who have an agenda like supporting Israel no matter what. Since they get attacked for not being a total Volkischer Beobachter, the Nazi official organ, or Pravda, they imagine attacks from people like myself are done only because I want the NYT to manipulate reality to suit my limited vision.

Nothing could be further from the truth and they know this. Over the years in various conversations I have had with the editors of the NYT they acknowledge that critics like myself are different from run of the mill critics. It is just, as they told the Brill Report after banning me from ever being printed on the editorial page again, "We won't have access to President Bush if we don't do this".

Craven even today when it is literally life and death for the NYT to get a spine! I wish they would print this article. It might help them recover some of their pride in their work.

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