by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Anonymous sources were once rarely used in journalism. They would only be cited when trying to preserve someone’s physical safety or report on the most sensitive national security matters, and there was an expectation that such unusual sourcing be reviewed by editors and carefully corroborated whenever possible.
Now anonymous sourcing has become the norm in reporting and is frequently used as a political weapon to disseminate Democrats’ talking points and smear their enemies. The illicit use of anonymous sources to launch libel against Democrats’ enemies ballooned after Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, and the tactic was used to develop the Russia-collusion hoax and multiple other smears.
The most recent example may be the Chinese spy balloon news cycle. When word reached the public that Red China spent days hovering over the United States collecting sensitive information, public outrage ensued. Dozens of legislators and governors and Trump demanded President Joe Biden shoot down the balloon as soon as possible.
The Biden administration refused, claiming that neutralizing the airborne threat could cause harm to civilians. This initial claim aired in corporate media, sourced to an anonymous “official” who offered no evidence, that “the balloon did not pose a military or physical threat” to the United States. This decision, once again, drew ire from Americans.
Once the administration finally did shoot down the balloon over the Atlantic, the Biden administration pointed fingers. An unnamed official at the Department of Defense allegedly told reporters at an off-camera press briefing on Feb. 4 that Chinese balloons like this one “transited the continental United States briefly at least three times during the prior administration.” …
… Classic journalism ethics state anonymous sourcing should be rare because the“public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.” Yet the practice of relying on unnamed information suppliers to communicate breaking news has become commonplace,