Perhaps the better question than the one posed in the headline is why the Washington press corps continues to quote governmental “officials” anonymously rather than make those people have the courage of their convictions?
These questions were debated between a Washington Post media blogger and a New York University journalism professor in an email thread published by the Post today.
No one likes anonymous sources, especially news organizations. And the president. Yet presidential administrations for years have allowed “on background” briefings, in which government officials can be questioned and their answers used, but not attributed to them.
Why do reporters allow that? Usually, news organizations grant anonymity to those who lack power – in other words, those people who may lose their jobs or even face danger by revealing important information.
But in the case of the Washington “on background” briefings, the people in power are being granted anonymity, for no real purpose other than, perhaps, to safeguard a reporter’s access to a government official. That’s not a good enough reason.