I missed this when it appeared yesterday, but Kate Parry, the “readers’ representative” at the Star Tribune–actually, an unabashed apologist for the paper’s worst abuses–wrote a rather lengthy piece titled The High Risk of Anonymous Sources. Ms. Parry acknowledged the peril that newspapers run when they base stories on information from people who don’t want their names attached:
Using anonymous sources is risky to the newspaper’s credibility. It’s not worth the risk unless the information is crucial to the public and can’t be obtained any other way.
Parry illustrated this principle with a discussion of sportswriter Sid Hartman’s story to the effect that a Big Ten official had apologized to University of Minnesota football coach Glen Mason for a “very bad call” in the Penn State game. The Big Ten later denied having made such an apology. Parry takes this controlversy very seriously indeed. Then, at the end of her prolonged discussion of the officiating controversy, Parry added this:
The issue also arose Oct. 7 when reporters Paul McEnroe and Rochelle Olson obtained court records a judge had expunged detailing an accusation and arrest for alleged domestic abuse against Alan Fine, the Republican candidate for the Fifth District congressional seat. That situation, in my eyes, met the test of being crucial information for the public to have before Election Day.
Sure. And that urgency explains why the Strib “expunged” the exculpatory facts that strongly suggested that the charge against Fine–which was dropped, and expunged by court order precisely so that this kind of unfair misuse would not occur–was untrue.
This gives me an idea, though. Maybe if an anonymous source tips the Strib to the fact that Keith Ellison is a long-time supporter of violent gang members who murder policemen, who has lied repeatedly about his long association with the Nation is Islam, the paper will finally print the story.