July 15, 2003

On the Record, Out of the Background

I’m back after two weeks in Provence and Paris and, my waistline a little wider and my wallet a little lighter, I’m ready to forgive the French everything. Any country that loves butter, cream and wine as much as France does deserves a break.

I’m also ready to grab the last seat on the let’s-get-it-on-the-record bandwagon. Dick Rogers, the readers rep/ombudsman for the S.F. Chronicle, recounts a visit to the paper’s brass by a “senior administration official” whose background-only “comments were largely predictable and consistent with previous administration statements.”

I’m not so certain, says Rogers, “whether the deal was good for readers.” He continues:

“Readers may receive little from such deals, but senior administration officials stand to gain a lot. These are chances to spread the pro- administration gospel, perhaps to float trial balloons -- all without fear that anyone in the White House would be held directly accountable.

“By their commanding presence and often disarming style, they hope to co-opt journalists into an insiders' club where skepticism takes a backseat.”

Nicely put. Let’s get the sources – and the journalists – out of the shadows and back in front of the public where they belong.

UPDATE: Still reading in from vacation, and here's David Shaw of the L.A. Times: "I can think of no common journalistic shortcoming that is more threatening to media credibility than the overreliance on unnamed sources."

 Dick Rogers The games newspapers shouldn't play
 David Shaw Going on the record about those anonymous sources

Posted by Tim Porter at July 15, 2003 07:39 AM