Tracking Vanity Fair anonymous sourcing

10/3/2016: What the Twitter Sale Reveals About Twitter, Itself

Someone very close to Twitter recently told me that if it wasn’t for all the rumors around an acquisition, the company’s stock would likely be in the low single digits.

6/1/2016: Can Anyone Save the New York Times From Itself?

Times spokespeople dismissed the report, but a few days later the company announced the dismissal of 70 employees in its Paris editing and production facility alone. In May, the company announced a new round of buyouts, a move largely seen as a precursor to at least 200 newsroom layoffs early next year, according to three Times staffers. “Every time this happens,” one former editor told me, “it’s a dark cloud that hangs over the newsroom for months.” Prior to the buyout announcement, Baquet put out a memo explaining that the newsroom “will have to change significantly—swiftly and fearlessly.” When I asked him about the “at least 200” figure, he said, “I’ve said there will be cuts, but I don’t know what the right size is at this point.”

6/1/2016: Twitter Is Betting Everything on Jack Dorsey. Will It Work?

I have been told by people close to the company that, in the face of mounting pressure from Wall Street, Twitter occasionally resorted to what most start-ups do when they need to goose the numbers: they kind of faked it. This happens at virtually all social networks; the company sends an e-mail to inactive users who haven’t been on the service in a few months, informing them there is a problem with their username or account, which leads people to log in to fix the situation. Magically, those people become monthly active users even if they were not.

Tracking Forbes anonymous sourcing

5/24/2016: This Silicon Valley Billionaire Has Been Secretly Funding Hulk Hogan’s Lawsuits Against Gawker

Peter Thiel, a PayPal cofounder and one of the earliest backers of Facebook, has been secretly covering the expenses for Hulk Hogan’s lawsuits against online news organization Gawker Media. According to people familiar with the situation who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, Thiel, a cofounder and partner at Founders Fund, has played a lead role in bankrolling the cases Terry Bollea, a.k.a. Hogan, brought against New York-based Gawker. Hogan is being represented by Charles Harder, a prominent Los Angeles-based lawyer.

A spokesperson for Thiel declined to comment.

Tracking Gizmodo anonymous sourcing

5/9/2016: Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News

Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.

Tracking New York Post anonymous sourcing

4/23/2016: New York Times plans to cut hundreds of jobs later this year

The New York Times Co. is preparing to lay off a few hundred staffers in the second half of the year, The Post has learned.

Chairman and Publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr.’s management team has been talking with some of the Times’ unions to come to a deal to provide reduced severance to those affected, sources told The Post.

Tracking The Information anonymous sourcing

7/7/2016: ESPN Takes a Baby Step Outside the Bundle

Walt Disney’s ESPN sports network plans to unveil a package of live programming it will offer directly to consumers on the Web, said a person with knowledge of the plans. The move is a baby step towards ESPN becoming a direct-to-consumer service.

5/24/2016: Apple Opening Siri, Developing Echo Rival

Apple is upping its game in the field of intelligent assistants. After years of internal debate and discussion about how to do so, the company is preparing to open up Siri to apps made by others. And it is working on an Amazon Echo-like device with a speaker and microphone that people can use to turn on music, get news headlines or set a timer.

Opening up its Siri voice assistant to outside app developers is the more immediate step. Apple is preparing to release a software developer kit, or SDK, for app developers who want their apps to be accessible through Siri, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort.

4/14/2016: Facebook and Twitter Pressure Partners Over Snapchat

Earlier this year, The Huffington Post got a polite but pointed request from Twitter: Stop using The Huffington Post’s personalized Snapchat logo as its Twitter profile image, according to a person briefed on the situation.

4/7/2016: Facebook Struggles to Stop Decline in ‘Original’ Sharing

Less than a year ago, leaders at Facebook convened to address a serious problem: people using the social network were posting fewer things about their personal lives for their friends to see, according to confidential company data about several types of content sharing that happen on Facebook, which was viewed by The Information.

Thus began an effort to deal with this long-term threat to Facebook’s primary moneymaker, the News Feed. Facebook set up a team in London to help develop a strategy to stop the double-digit decline in “original” sharing that happens on Facebook, according to four people with knowledge of the situation.

Tracking The Intercept anonymous sourcing

4/11/2016: Echo Papa Exposed

The South Sudanese, according to a person with knowledge of the encounter, were initially confused, and then angry, when the militarized planes never arrived.

1/19/2016: Navy SEAL Turns Over Picture of bin Laden’s Body, Faces Investigation of Business Ties

A former Navy SEAL who shot Osama bin Laden and wrote a bestselling book about the raid is now the subject of a widening federal criminal investigation into whether he used his position as an elite commando for personal profit while on active duty, according to two people familiar with the case.

Tracking Huffington Post anonymous sourcing

5/16/2016: New York Times In ‘Final Stage’ Of Selecting Next Public Editor

Details of the selection process, led by standards editor Phil Corbett, have been closely held within the Times. A spokeswoman for the paper told The Huffington Post that the Times is in the “final stage” of its search, but declined to comment on the number of candidates in the mix.

Veteran journalists Debra Adams Simmons and Elizabeth Spayd are among those still being considered, sources familiar with the process told HuffPost.

11/14/2015: The New York Times Fires Two Veteran Editors

The two longtime editors played key roles in the print operation, which is currently being reorganized. Though the re-tooling of the print side may account for their positions being cut, management did not explain the decision to staffers Thursday, according to newsroom sources. Management’s handling of the situation was out of character for The Times, sources said.

Tracking CBS anonymous sourcing

4/11/2016: How U.S. Navy officer accused of spying may have helped enemies

New details have emerged on the active-duty United States Naval officer who is accused of espionage and facing multiple charges for allegedly passing secrets to China.

Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin worked as a flight officer on the Navy’s sensitive intelligence gathering aircraft, the EP-3E Reconnaissance. A U.S. official familiar with the case claims Lin leaked details about the plane’s communications systems – information that could help adversaries counter U.S. eavesdropping.

10/3/2015: Joe Biden could decide presidential run in the next week

Vice President Joe Biden is nearing a decision on whether to run for president, and it could come as early as within the next seven to 10 days, according to three people familiar with his deliberations.

Two of those people said he is leaning toward entering the race. Still, they caution that family considerations remain the overriding concern and would be the reason he doesn’t run. His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, has said that should the vice president launch a bid for the Oval Office, “of course” she would “be on board.”

8/24/2015: President Obama has given Joe Biden the green light to mull a White House run.


Status: Unverified

Q & A With Dan Gillmor on Anonymous Sourcing

Dan Gillmor is the author of two books and is a professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I spoke with Dan on the phone to get his thoughts on anonymous sourcing. The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.

What are your thoughts about anonymous sourcing in the media?

It’s ridiculously overdone. It is one of the things that is ruining the credibility of traditional news media.

How can anonymous sourcing affect reader trust? Do you think it’s something an average reader notices?

I can’t say what an average reader thinks or notices — I haven’t seen any data on that. That being said, I think someone who is reading or listening to a report where people who refuse to be identified are being quoted has a right to wonder whether the source actually exists and what else they’re not being told, including what axe an anonymous source may have to grind.

Do you think journalists may be too quick offer or grant anonymous sourcing?

The evidence seems pretty strong that the answer is yes, they’re certainly quick to do it.

Do you think that maybe sources are asking for anonymity more than they used to?

I haven’t been in the daily journalism field for a long time, so I don’t know. I do know that I almost never was willing to grant anonymity myself. To the extent that I did, I regret it.

In what situation would you grant anonymity?

It’s arguably justified if the journalist has an exemplary track record of being accurate and nuanced, and if there’s some reason that revealing the source’s identity would put the source in serious jeopardy. It’s hard for me to come up with any other scenario where I would even think about endorsing it.

If the source provides documentary evidence, that eases it a little bit. It still raises the question, though, what’s the motivation here?

Would you consider being fired as “serious jeopardy”? I’ve seen anonymity granted to people not authorized to speak about a matter.

It’s possible to come up with a case where one could consider that justified. In general though, no. If you’re so appalled by what’s going on inside your company, you should leave and then speak out. If you’re leaking something that your organization legitimately can’t talk about publicly, then you’re probably acting unethically.

It’s kind of funny to read that a source is “familiar with” something — a matter, a conversation, a situation.

That’s just the new terminology for ‘sources.’ The Wall Street Journal is an exemplar of that linguistic trickery. I’d speculate they do this because readers learned to disbelieve or be suspicious of articles with ‘sources said.’ I hope readers now become suspicious of things that say ‘people familiar with the situation’ or words to that effect.

Whatever wordplay a news organization uses, it’s still a flag that says ‘believe this at your peril.’

You mentioned The Wall Street Journal. Are there other news organizations that you think are particularly bad offenders? 

The New York Times is another. You see them so often, I think examples of non-egregious anonymous sourcing are the rarities. There’s almost a humor to it now.

I don’t always see journalists give the reason why anonymity was granted. If this was done more often, do you think it would help reader trust?

Some organizations do require a published reason for granting anonymity. Often, the reason is laughable, though. If people are going to laugh out loud about the reason you granted anonymity, maybe you shouldn’t grant it.

It would help with reader trust in the very rare case that a person told a journalist what’s going on in a regime that has a reputation for killing people — we get that. I still have my doubts about trusting the source, but I can understand why they were granted anonymity.

Is there anything else you want to mention?

If a bunch of news organizations got together and said they wouldn’t do any anonymous sources for, say, six months, to see if their audiences are more poorly informed — that would be interesting to see. It would never happen, but one can always hope.