Anonymous sources ‘hurt the reputation of journalism,’ some say
There used to be a time in journalism when using an anonymous source was a big deal.
“In my experience with common, normal, journalism publications, any that I have worked for, have a written or even unwritten rule that you didn’t use unnamed sources unless you had a compelling reason. Even then, the publisher and editor had to agree, know who the source was, and why it wasn’t being named,” Michael Cavanagh, assistant professor of communication at UIS, explained.
At one point in time, journalists were even prepared to face jail time to protect a source. In 2005, Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times, was jailed for 85 days when she refused to reveal her source before a federal grand jury.
Today, however, magazines like US, In Touch, and Star use unnamed sources with reckless abandon. “Smut” magazines, as my friends and I call them, publish stories without an interviewee’s name more often than they actually cite their source.
An inside source, a close friend, a family insider or, my personal favorite, “a witness” supposedly revealed shocking information about some celebrity that these publications just had to publish but they didn’t want to endanger their source of wrath of these big, bad celebrities.
This overuse of anonymous sources is creating distrust among the masses, in my opinion. People used to look to mass media for reliable, trustworthy news. But nowadays, most news, especially that of the celebrity variety, has to be taken with a grain of salt.
“It does, in general, hurt the reputation of journalism,” Cavanagh said. “The average consumer doesn’t distinguish between celebrity journalism and real journalism.”
We have become a culture that prefers to follow the Kardashians to what is really happening in the world. Conflict, war, and politics just aren’t fashionable anymore.
I am even guilty of indulging in this smut. I am the first to admit that I have a slight TMZ addiction. Honestly, reading mindless drivel about Taylor Swift is sometimes exactly what I need to check out for a minute or two. However, I try to balance my intake of celebrity news with hard news. Unfortunately, that is not the case with many.
I dream of a day when the investigative reporting and human-interest pieces aren’t pushed to the back of the magazines among the ads for the latest medications. I wish to walk through the check out line and see just as many public affairs magazine covers as celebrity covers.
I understand that celebrity news has it’s place in today’s society, but I wish that people would take at least the same amount of interest in normal, everyday reporting as they do in who’s dating who and who’s pregnant.