Lookie here: The ombudsmen of both the Washington Post and the New York Times today both covered the exact same ground—-the use of anonymous sources by their respective newspapers.
The Post‘s Andy Alexander ripped the newsroom for relying too much on what Jack Shafer calls “anonymice.” Here’s AA:
Post policies say that editors have an “obligation” to know the identity of a reporter’s unnamed sources so they can “jointly assess” whether they should be used. “The source of anything that appears in the paper will be known to at least one editor,” the stylebook says.
But of nearly 30 Post reporters questioned recently about their use of anonymous sources, roughly two-thirds said that editors never or rarely ask to know the identity.
Alexander also drove at an ages-old topic, noting that about half of the reporters he contacted didn’t have a good command of the distinction between “background” and “off the record.”
Over at the Times, Clark Hoyt delved into the paper’s standing pissing match with the Jackson family:
The Times recently got tangled in the middle of a struggle between Michael Jackson’s family and the executors of his estate, John Branca and John McClain. Quoting “people close to the Jackson family,” the paper said that lawyers for the entertainer’s mother, Katherine Jackson, “were considering whether to challenge the two executors on the grounds that they took advantage of Mr. Jackson’s addictions, which incapacitated him and impaired his judgment.”
That anonymous shot violated the newspaper’s written rule against letting unnamed sources make personal attacks.
Now’s the time for the retrocast: glorious days, all in all. A touch hot for some. On days like these, if you’re looking to play tennis, get out there early, because few local courts have much cloud cover, and you’re going to be laboring hard under the sun if you’re not on the court before 8 a.m.
HOW TO DO A PHONED-IN COLUMN AND HAVE IT BE GOOD: Get a killer e-mail from a fellow who was allegedly the victim of a really misguided arrest and pretty much quote the e-mail, with some narrative assistance here or there.
On Friday night, a colleague asked me, Hey, what the hell has Anne Hull been up to? I had no idea. Until Sunday, when I saw her A1 story about how the recession has affected a very wealthy divorced mother caring for her family in a mansion in a New York city suburb. My reaction to most stories relating to the personal toll of the recession is to draw my eyeballs to the next story. Not so here. Hull’s story was fresh and interesting, and I wanted all the details of how hard times were treating the well-to-do. They’re all there. Masterful headline, too: “Squeaking by on $300,000.”
For lovers of D.C. politics, Hamil Harris‘ piece on the fallout of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center contains a nice little Wilson Building juxtaposition. Late last week, news broke that Cora Masters Barry and her Wish List Foundation were being evicted from the center following a mayoral review that showed that the group’s incorporation documents had lapsed. Seemed like a petty thing to do, and Harris quoted Mayor Adrian M. Fenty as attributing the move to a “technical” issue and claiming that things of this sort generally get worked out.
Yet Fenty’s AG, Peter Nickles, took a more serve-and-volley approach to the matter. From Harris’ Sunday story: Nickles: “Legally, you can’t give them a break. This is not the fault of the city. They should have known better. They were trying to do business with the city when they knew their status as a registered D.C. corporation had been revoked by the government.”