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Tuesday, June 15, 2010
WorldNetDaily and Anonymous Sources
Topic: WorldNetDaily

What is WorldNetDaily's policy on using anonymous sources? Does it even have a policy at all beyond how such anonymity serves WND's political agenda?

We ask because, as Salon details, ombudsmen both the New York Times and the Washington Post have raised questions about their respective papers' use -- more specifically, the overuse -- of anonymous sources. According to Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander, the paper's guidelines state that anonymity "should not be done casually or automatically," and that "merely asking should not be sufficient to become anonymous in our stories." Salon's Dan Gillmor adds:

Whether the reporters and editors who so casually violate their institutions' rules are simply arrogant and/or lazy, or whether they genuinely believe they're providing information that readers need to know, they're undermining the credibility of their news organizations almost every time they do this. In reality, whether they understand it or not, they betray contempt for their readers, not respect.

As a reader, I've trained myself to treat anonymously sourced stories with the most extreme skepticism. Unless I can infer a truly compelling reason for the anonymity, I now actively disbelieve -- or, at best, assume a sleazy motive on the part of the source -- what I read in these circumstances.

WND, meanwhile, appears to have no apparent policy governing the use of anonymous sources -- none it's bothered to share with readers, anyway. Despite editor Joseph Farah's dismissal of anonymous sources as being used by reporters for "quotes made up out of whole cloth to help make the story read better," WND regularly invokes anonymous sources, typically to attack its political enemies.

Aaron Klein is perhaps WND's most flagrant abuser of anonymous sources. In the past month, Klein has written four articles whose primary claims are based on anonymous sources. At no point in any of those articles did he explain why anonymity was granted. Given that each of those articles advances WND's agenda of promoting Israel and attackingPalestinians and the Obama administration, the "sleazy motive" Gillmor spoke of can be assumed here as well. Heck, Klein has even granted anonymity to terrorists, which makes it all the more sleazy.

Klein is not the only WND writer to use anonymous sources for political purposes, however -- Jerome Corsi used on in a June 5 WND article to attack the Obama administration. Given Corsi's less-than-stellar record of accuracy and more-than-ample record of political attacks, it can be assumed Corsi was operating from a "sleazy motive" as well.

If Klein, Corsi, and the rest of WND can't be bothered to explain why they hide behind anonymous sources to launch their political attacks -- and if WND can't even articulate a policy on their use -- it shouldn't be taken seriously as a news organization. Fortunately, that's far from the only factor keeping intelligent people from doing that.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:19 AM EDT

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