BOSTON (CBS) – Anonymity is a tricky thing. In the news business, it’s an often-necessary tool to ferret out information that would otherwise stay hidden. But it can also be a shield for the disgruntled to hide behind as they settle scores, sometimes unfairly.
President Trump knows both sides of that story. He used to use an assumed name to plant flattering items about himself in the New York newspapers, and benefitted during the campaign from anonymous information about his opponent. But from day one of his presidency he has also been the target of anonymous leaks and quotes, most recently in a New York Times op-ed from an unnamed administration official who claimed to be part of an inside resistance devoted to “thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
Most serious news organizations have strict policies dictating that anonymous sources be carefully vetted and used only when absolutely necessary. In our newsroom, tips often come in from anonymous sources, but are then confirmed on the record through documents and other sources.
In this case, the times justified it’s decision by claiming the anonymous op-ed “adds significant value to the public’s understanding of what is going on in the Trump administration,” but I don’t see how it told us anything that hasn’t already been reported in books and conventional news stories.
The most important story here is that, in some key ways, this president is in over his head. But it seems unnecessary for America’s leading newspaper to bend the rules in the pursuit of that important truth.