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Leaks & Anonymous Sources Dominate Coverage of Trump/Russia Investigations


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During the scramble to be the first and provide the best possible coverage of the ongoing Trump/Russia investigations, credible news organizations have published numerous stories based upon “leaks” from sources who are listed as “anonymous” or described without using their names or titles.
Some Administration officials decry “leakers” and infer that they are not credible and chastise news entities for using the information from these unnamed sources. Some officials call stories based on anonymous sources “fake news.”
Journalists, however, often must rely on these anonymous tips to get the facts and after the stories and sources are completely vetted – the resulting story is anything but “fake news.” Often these stories are, in fact, the most reliable types of stories. They must, however, be what Andrew Alexander calls – subject to “prosecutorial editing” – severe editing for fairness, credibility and accuracy.
Alexander is a former Washington Post ombudsman, a former Washington Bureau chief for Cox Newspapers and an award winning journalist – in his own right. His media career has spanned more than four decades.
He has reported from more than 50 countries and he has directed news coverage both domestically and internationally. He is a member of the board of the American Society of News Editors and has led its Freedom of Information Committee.
Alexander also serves on the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists – This group assists journalists worldwide who have been subjected to attacks, arrests and harassment.
Today, he helps us understand the use of anonymous sources by journalists, governmental leaks and the ethics and legalities surrounding this controversial method of reporting.
Specifically, the use by media of unnamed anonymous sources in ongoing news coverage of the Trump/Russia investigation has been a point of contention and is rampant in it repetitiveness.
Alexander helps define for us “off the record” and “not for attribution” and tells us why a reporter or editor might support anonymity of a source. He also thinks it is humorous when Congress and the White House get upset and agitated about “leakers” since many of the leakers work for those complaining entities.
He also notes that, to date, the Trump Administration has been waging a “war of words” against reporters but if those words turn into punitive actions with legal consequences, then we will be in a new state of animosity that we have never seen set loose against the media in this country.
Alexander equated this possible hostility against the media to be similar to what happens to reporters in Russia, Syria or Turkey.