Question stories based on unnamed sources

One of the most reliable characteristics of an Associated Press news story these days appears to be the author quoting a highly placed government or military official who cannot be named because he or she has not been authorized to discuss the issue.

A recent front-page story in the “Nation” section of the Aug. 25, 2013, Durango Herald indicates, in paragraph eight, that the U. S. Navy is sending an additional missile cruiser to the eastern Mediterranean and cites an anonymous source.

Notwithstanding the fact that this information gives “aid and comfort to the enemy” or that Syria probably knows more about the fleet than the Associated Press, it is astonishing that a military person would discuss the movements of U. S. naval vessels with a newspaper.

The reading public can accept the veracity of these stories in one of several ways:

We cut the author some slack – the source was real; the information was reliable; and will subsequently be proven accurate.

The government (or whoever was the entity at the focus of the story) wanted to “leak” the information and the AP was convenient.

The source and/or the information was imaginary, cooked up by the author to add some sort of credibility to the story.

Relying for news on an anonymous source questions the entire story even though the anonymous source generally only affects a portion of the story.

The reading public should question whether stories using anonymous sources should appear, more appropriately, on the Opinion page.

Ray Luley


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