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The Right Kind of Anonymice?

The second day story on the Newsweek flap is breaking down into two angles–one examining how Newsweek responded as a p.r. matter versus CBS’ response to the National Guard memos, the other rekindles the slowly simmering discussion about anonymous sourcing in news reporting out of Washington. We’re much more interested in the latter, and especially in Jay Rosen’s lengthy examination of the matter.

Joe Hagan, writing in the WSJ, examines the problem of sourcing facing journalists right now, lining up some powerful defenders of the practice. Bob Woodward, who had the most famous anonymous source of all time, says “I think there’s not enough use of unnamed sources, frankly.” Time’s John Dickerson asks: “Is it better to have a piece with no anonymous sourcing that gets you five feet down the road? Or one using anonymous sourcing that gets you 10 feet down the road, that tells you more?”

On a different note, as we said yesterday, it’s interesting how quickly this flap has distracted from the larger allegations involved in the story. Hence, to us, the most intriguing quote in today’s hand-wringing write-ups? This “unnamed” Newsweek reporter in the LA Times:

“A Newsweek journalist familiar with the reporting on the article agreed with his editor’s regrets Monday, but said it appeared the administration was seizing on the error to minimize the abuse allegations. ‘The issue of how prisoners are treated at Guantanamo has not gone away,’ said the journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ‘Now they want to deflect that by talking about how irresponsible Newsweek magazine was.’”

What will be the third day’s story out of this? The White House isn’t finished this one yet, because it’s such a good opportunity to continue decertifying the press.

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