I keep forgetting that Watergate was 40 plus years ago and everyone has forgotten – or never knew – how journalism works. People object to the use of anonymous sources, especially now that Bob Woodward has laid bare the Trump White House.
A journalism primer from someone who has been there.
- Bob Woodward has been the best reporter in the world for 40 years. He uses anonymous sources. Deal with it or prove he is lying.
- High level government officials talk to Woodward and other reporters for many reasons. It doesn’t matter what the motivation. Woodward and any good reporter checks and rechecks and balances peoples’ motivations.
- High level government officials talk to Woodward all the time. Don’t kid yourself. And then they deny in public that they did so. That is the way it works. Just because Rob Porter, Jim Mattis and others issue statements denying they said what they said – doesn’t mean they didn’t. They talk to Woodward. Now they deny it. That is how it works. People lie every day about this.
- There are several ways to speak to a reporter. These are rules of the road established over time. Given that the Inernet has destroyed all rules of the road, these rules are often not followed anymore. But this is how it works with someone like Woodward.
- ON THE RECORD – You speak to a reporter and agree that those comments can be published.
- OFF the RECORD – The reporter agrees to not publish your comments.
- BACKGROUND – The reporter can use the comments and even quote them. But cannot use your name. Senior government officials do this every day. The secretary of state briefs reporters this way on the plane. This is how Woodward operates in his books in large part.
- Deep background – The reporter can use the information, not ID the source, and cannot quote – but can use the information to get other information. This is how Woodward operated with Deep Throat in the garage. Watch All the President’s Men.