As the journalism guild’s complicity in the General Michael Flynn travesty becomes steadily more apparent, some questions arise—again—about what an honest journalism industry (not guild—that’s beyond redemption) needs to do to have any credibility.

  1. identify at least some the sources, rather than hanging an article’s thesis exclusively on the claims of anonymous sources
  2. if an anonymous source refuses to be identified, show with concrete, measurable evidence the following:
    1. the source actually exists
    2. if the source exists, then
      1. why the source should be believed, given that by speaking publicly, even if anonymously, he’s likely violating his terms of employment if not his oath of office
      2. why the source should be believed, given that by hiding behind anonymity, he’s displaying his cowardice—and cowards will always and only say what they believe will be personally beneficial
  3. if representing the anonymous source as a whistleblower, provide concrete, measurable evidence that the source has used up all of his employer’s internal whistleblowing channels before he decided to leak

All of this is best done in the opening paragraph(s) of an article, ahead even of the Who, What, Where, When that used to form the lede of quality journalism. That unavoidably will make for a clumsy opening to what’s being represented as a factual news article (rather than an opinion piece), but that’s the cost incurred of a guild’s prolonged, insistent dishonesty.

Even more importantly, though, the press used to have a standard that required two on-the-record sources to corroborate the claims of a journalist’s anonymous sources. The industry’s Editors-in-Chief—every single one of them—must explain:

  1. why they have chosen to walk away from that standard of integrity
  2. what standard of integrity they’re using in its stead

2 thoughts on “Credibility

  1. One more thing – it’s time to retire the Journalist Mutual Protection Society. Apologetics for a fellow journalist’s actions reduce – nay, eliminate – the credibility of the speaker. Yesterday’s Bret Baier comment excusing fellow “journalist” Chuck Todd’s egregious behavior is a fine example. Yes, “everybody makes mistakes” — but that’s neither an excuse nor, in the pattern of behavior, even a valid explanation. “Once is luck, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.”

    • There’s no such thing as coincidence. A physicist debunked that myth more than 100 years ago.
      Twice may, though, be grinding stupidity or incompetence. In the case of Todd, though, it’s unlikely to be either; his intern briefed him thoroughly when he did the research for Todd for the segment, and Todd’s video editors only did what Todd instructed them to do; those editors are not independent actors.
      Eric Hines

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