Anonymice: The Motivation of the Rodents

Nora Ephron at the Huffington Post expounding on the pointlessness of the New York Times’ policy that reporters must try to explain to readers, on a case-by-case basis, precisely why anonymous sources request anonymity:

Here’s the point: anonymous sources are never going to admit the truth about why they prefer to be anonymous. They are never going to say, the reason I’m willing to be your anonymous source is that I’m in a power struggle with the person I’m giving you information about. They are never going to say, I’m willing to talk to you about Fred (but don’t use my name) because he slept with my ex-wife. They’re never going to say, the reason I’m talking to you off the record is that I’m a malicious gossip and have nothing better to do. They’re never going to say, I’m talking to you on background in the hopes of convincing you that my version of events is true, although it probably isn’t. Or, I’m talking to you on background because I’m essentially shilling for the President, but if I make the quote anonymous it will sound as if I’ve told you something top secret. They’re certainly never going to say (as Ahmad Chalabi ought to have when he spent so many years being the most effective anonymous source since Deep Throat), I’m talking to you on condition of anonymity because I hope to plant false information about weapons of mass destruction in your very powerful newspaper in order to con the United States government into going to war against Saddam Hussein so I can return to Iraq and become part of the new government and steal a whole bunch more money than I already have.


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Steve Lovelady was editor of CJR Daily.