When 'confirmed' doesn't really mean confirmed

Thursday, September 10, 2020
 | 
Steve Jordahl (OneNewsNow.com)

News with magnifying glass 2It may be rare, but some mainstream reporters are still practicing real journalism – and one of them is pointing out what he calls "a new propaganda tool."

Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept can't confirm if President Donald Trump denigrated dead soldiers while in France in 2018 during the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of World War I. That's what The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg claimed in a September 3 story, which he based on anonymous sources.

But what Greenwald is calling out in a weekend article is The Associated Press and Fox News, both claiming they "confirmed" Goldberg's story via other anonymous sources who had heard the story from the first group of anonymous sources.

Award-winning journalist Richard Randall agrees with Greenwald that Fox and AP are playing fast and loose with the term.

Randall

"Confirmed what? Confirmed that there were anonymous people who said something?" Randall asks. "That doesn't 'confirm' it. Confirming it would mean that you had independent sources other than those four or five anonymous sources that, in fact, did confirm it."

Randall argues those independent sources would have to at least go on the record, or produce notes taken at the time.

"You never base a story completely on anonymous sources, in that you usually have a percentage – 25% or maybe 50% that are anonymous sources,," he explains, "but you confirm it using either other witnesses or documents in some instances."

Randall says it's especially disappointing that The Associated Press fell into the trap.

"Ten years ago, or certainly 20 years ago, I might waffle a little bit for the Washington Post or The New York Times, because I think their bias has always been there," he notes. "But I always thought of The Associated Press as the standard."

Yesterday, in a New York Post story, Goldberg conceded that anonymous sources were "not good enough" in stories such as his.

"But … like other reporters, I'm always balancing out the moral ambiguities and complications after anonymous sourcing with the public's right to know," Goldberg is quoted. "But … obviously it would be better if people would … attach their names to what they know."

His theory on why his sources chose to remain anonymous? They don't want to "interfere in democratic electoral processes" and were fearful of "a Twitter mob" if they were identified.

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