Friday, November 5, 2010

Don't Quote Me! House Aide Speculates In NYT, Then Seeks Anonymity "Because He Did Not Want To Speculate."

We do not grant anonymity to people who are engaged in speculation, unless the very act of speculating is newsworthy and can be clearly labeled for what it is.

-- NYT Confidential News Sources Policy

Today we launch a new NYTPicker feature, "Don't Quote Me!" -- a highlight of the latest, most egregious excuses for anonymity from the pages of the NYT.

You see them every morning, unnamed sources spilling their guts -- usually claiming anonymity because they were "not authorized" to speak to reporters.

Hey, we understand. On deadline, it's often very difficult to get those Official Newspaper Source Authorization Forms properly filled out.

But often -- pressed to develop some original explanation for a source's reluctance to see his or her name in the paper, per NYT policy -- NYT reporters twist themselves into pretzels with their excuses for failure to force a source onto the record.

In "For Obama, Foreign Policy May Offer Avenues for Success," by Helene Cooper, comes this articulation of a source's anonymity today. In this instance, the source says he doesn't want to engage in "speculation." A noble goal, considering it's useless, and against the NYT's anonymous source rules.

But Cooper goes ahead and quotes him speculating, anyway:

The expected ascension of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, to lead the House Foreign Affairs Committee, could signal trouble for Mr. Obama’s efforts to expand Americans’ opportunities to travel to Cuba, the next step aimed at encouraging contact between people in both countries.

“The likelihood of things moving on that in the next Congress are greatly diminished,” said a Republican aide in the House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to speculate on legislation before the new committee assignments were set.

We'll be back soon, with another edition of "Don't Quote Me!"


Frolic said...

Helene Cooper is quickly becoming my least favorite NYT reporter.

Anonymous said...

She writes like a parasite reporting on the innards of the trash can.

Anonymous said...

actually, she's simply not a terribly good reporter, or writer, for that matter. on top of that there's always a think tank academic in DC who will opine on topics like this, and usually with more authority and specifics than and anonymous staffer.

for instance if the miami maniac becomes congress's chief foreign policy person, you can bet cuba and venezuela will be hot topics (they are vote winners with her wealthy latam expat base), and israel, to throw miami's other voting bloc a bone.

fortunately, congress doesn't make foreign policy, the president does, with the advice and consent of the senate, plus some nipping at the ankles by running lapdog lackeys like the cuban complainer...

Anonymous said...

Here, the reportorial desideratum for a sustained tie to the representative's unnamed aide, is in contempt of the public's right to know.

Plus, as a natural corollary to the power of the position behind the name withheld over the normalization of Cuban-American mobility, the act of withholding is to the detriment of the democratic process.

Some suggest quoting a source who is willing to be named and who echoes the viewpoint, this might avoid exposing the tension between informing and protecting sources.

What is a reader who begs to differ on that balance (or imbalance) to do but to be a voice for the intelligence of the numbers who read in silence?

Anonymous said...

Here's their late-night TV critic's latest post, seemingly this guy is itching for the boot, or it is plausibly that overworking himself into feeling like a rebel:

“I think Conan will get the same kind of big opening his first night,” said one former late-night writer-producer. “He’ll get a little time to shine; maybe a bit less than everyone thinks.” The reason, said this person, who spoke only on the condition of not being identified because of continuing ties to a competing show, has to do with the time of year: November, a special ratings period called sweeps month, has the unrelenting pressure of competition as more and more late-night shows fight for a diminishing share of the audience.