Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Anonymity

Andy at Packergeeks has a great scoop on the Favre drama. Of course, it relies on an anonymous source.

Packerwatch asks: "Are bloggers’ anonymous sources better than traditional writers’ anonymous sources?"

It's a fair questions, and the answer is "yes" and "no."

The use of anonymous sources is less offensive to me if done by a blogger. By and large bloggers are hobbyists. We do our best, but we are not newspapers and we do not follow a strict journalistic code. We don't have the time, resources, connections or access to to follow a journalistic code. A blogger's anonymous source is likely to be a friend or family member, who they don't want to burn. That is why blog readers take things that they read on blogs with a grain of salt. (It's also why blogs are better at sharing opinions than disseminating facts).

On the other hand, a writer for a newspaper's only job is reporting. They have all the resources, connections, and access to sources they need to corroborate the information they get from anonymous sources. And they should be corroborating their information. Relying on a single anonymous source is unacceptable. As is (in my opinion) relying on a single group of anonymous sources that all have the exact same agenda---i.e. "sources close to Favre."

The problem with anonymous sources is that readers have no way of knowing how well-placed the source is. (As a sidenote, I love it when an anonymous source is described as a "well-placed" anonymous source.) Is he a janitor? In the accounting department? A scout? Brad Childress's moustache groomer?

The difference between a blog's use of an anonymous source and a newspaper's use of an (uncorroborated) anonymous source is that readers know to take a blog with a grain of salt, whereas newspapers still have a "seal of approval."

By the way, if you haven't figured it out yet (and shame on the monkies in the media who have not figured it out yet): Favre and the Vikings are engaged in an active misinformation campaign.

Favre wants to come back. No he doesn't. The Vikings want him. No they don't. Favre is seriously injured. No he isn't. Yes he is. Brad Childress is on a plane right this second. Actually he is driving around Minnetonka with the top down on his Mazda Miata with spittle flapping off his moustache. Etc. etc. etc.

It is not just a coincidence that every report is soon contradicted by a different report and that everyone with a scoop insists that they are correct and the other guy is full of it. I suspect that different "anonymous sources" within the Vikings organization have been told different things. I also suspect that Favre and the Vikings are laughing at every new report.

Of course the question is: why engage in a misinformation campaign if Favre is staying retired?

(There are a lot of other questions,too, like "I wonder how Tavarious Jackson and the rest of the Vikings players feel about the lame back-and-forth game that the Vikings and Favre are playing.")

On an entirely unrelated note: there is another interesting contoversy brewing about outting anonymous bloggers. As an anonymous blogger, I obviously think such conduct is vindictive and over-the-line.

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