Here are some pretty good rules of thumb regarding what you should trust — and what you shouldn’t — when reading news stories with unnamed sources.
This piece ran in FiveThirtyEight. The author makes the New York Times look like the paragon of all that is good and great in journalism so it’s important to keep in mind that FiveThirtyEight itself was for a few years owned and operated by the NYT. It was sold to ESPN in 2013 and remains under the control of that company. That caveat out of the way, NYT is generally more dependable than most other news sources today. That is, when one takes into account the Gray Lady has a vested interest in maintaining whatever status quo is extant at the moment and it buys hook line and sinker into what is often — and lazily — referred to as neoliberal economics.
Nevertheless, this piece is particularly timely today. Whenever a major scandal is breaking in Washington, the months and even years of revelations come from unnamed sources. People like to keep their jobs even if they’re aghast at some cardinal or venial sin being committed by their bosses. The Watergate affair, for example, played out over a period of 26 months, from June, 1972 through August, 1974. Pretty much every single revelation originally was attributed to an unnamed source and then, eventually, verified either by primary documents or by officials speaking for attribution.
BTW: The biggest scandal that rocked the Obama administration was, natch, his reputed birth in Kenya or whatever other godforsaken hellhole where he was trained to take over our holy land and place the good among us in chains. Now, that scandal has lasted years and years. It began way back in 2004 when BHO ran for the US Senate from Illinois and has lasted through this very day. Yep, social media commenters still are calling for the ex-president to be jailed for forging his birth certificate and otherwise fooling the sheeple of America in order to lead them over the cliff.
Funny thing is, there have never been unnamed sources for this scandal. The whole shebang has been dependent upon the certainty among many that a brown-skinned guy with a foreign-sounding name must of course have been born in some other country — or even on some other planet — and possessed special powers to finagle his way into the White — emphasis on white — House.
Plus, He’s One Of The Lizard People
There are no rules of thumb governing that kind of news sourcing.