Anonymous sources

In an article on a Trump and mask use, Maegan Vazquez, Dana Bash and Kaitlan Collins (yes, it took three people to pen a 530 word article) write the following:

The shift to encouraging mask-wearing was primarily motivated by floundering poll numbers, a source familiar with the President’s thinking told CNN.

Everybody knows about the media’s dependence on anonymous sources for their stories on political infighting, a dependence that invites perfidy from journalists, leakers, and troublemakers. What is a ‘high level source’ at the White House? Steve Bannon? (not any more); A disgruntled staffer? Does he or she even exist? What are their motives? Are they making shit up? We have no way of knowing.

But take a moment to marvel at what a weaselly use of words a source familiar with the President’s thinking constitutes. Virtually everybody with a political opinion in the country claims to know how Trump thinks. Vazquez, Bash and Collins probably consider themselves familiar with his thinking – if one of them was the ‘anonymous source’ in question, the article would technically be accurate. This apparently passes for acceptable journalism for these three writers and the editors at CNN.

I have argued elsewhere that a lot of journalism is simply political activism these days, and this probably accounts for the fact that nobody cares. People go for for their daily shot of feel-good propaganda – to have their prejudices reinforced – from Fox, CNN, or wherever. If they want straight news they’ll have to put in the extra effort needed to get it from first-hand sources freely available from the Internet.

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