"That may require that editor to personally meet the source, 'look him or her in the eye, and get a feel for the conviction of the source and the depth of knowledge.'"
--Haiman, Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, pages 17-28
As I began reading the chapter about anonymous sources, I have to confess I had some reservations. While it is important to ensure that people can't just throw out false information under the protection of being anonymous, I think it's also important that you don't go to the other extreme as well--discourage anonymous sources so much that people who may have legitimate reasons to keep their identity secret can't get important information to the public. After all, where would be if we didn't have Deep Throat? You understand I'm talking about the informant in the Watergate scandal, and not something else. You just have to strike a balance; the system can be abused either way. It's equally important to discourage people from feeling like they can just throw out any ridiculous accusation because they can say they want to remain anonymous. Once again, I was amazed at how many people on the panel seemed to have personal experience with anonymous accusations--"I've been speared by anonymous sources in the paper several times and it's the most helpless feeling, but what can you do?" What kind of people did they interview for this survey? I don't think I'm remotely connected to any situation in which anonymous sources accused someone of something; I don't think it's that common of an experience. Once again, I have the suspicion that the people they gathered for this panel have more direct experience with dealing with the press than the average person. I feel like this may have colored their feedback in a negative way.
The second chapter in this section seemed to address a more universal problem readers might have--reporters who don't really understand the subject they're covering. Most people have studied something in-depth that is reported on from time to time, and it can be painful when you see it being misrepresented. I know I have issues with articles that are written on theatre all the time. And my experiences writing news in this class have led me to understand the other side of things; it can be very difficult to get a firm grasp on a subject you've had very little or no exposure to. When attending two speeches at the Holocaust Conference, there were times when I found it a little hard to follow the speaker because they used such specific references. For instance, Michael Berenbaum referred to an incident with a Bishop Williamson and didn't really explain it, and most people in the audience seemed to understand it. There's a lot of background research you have to do, which is hard when you're trying to play catchup with experts in their field who have been studying the subject for years.