The NYT: Do as I say (sorta), not as I do
May 8th, 2005 by JTJ

Today's NYT “Week in Review” carries Daniel Okrent's column, “The Public Editor.”  This week's solid piece — “Briefers and Leakers and the Newspapers Who Enable Them” — takes another deserved shot at the use of unattributed and/or anonymous sourcing. 
But both Okrent and the NYT fall short in providing adequate
transparency and leveraging of the digital environment to the benefit
of both readers and the newspaper.

Okrent reports on some analytic work regarding the NYT's use of sourcing
practices, work carried out by a grad student at NYU, Jason B.
Williams.  Okrent gives appropriate attribution to Williams and
his data and, let's assume, reported it correctly.  But he only reported the data.  At the
end of the essay, Okrent quotes NYT editor Bill Keller: “'We need to
get our policies [regarding sourcing] hard-wired into the brains of our
reporters and editors that
we are obliged to tell readers how we know
what we know
,' Bill Keller told me the other day.” [The IAJ's emphasis added.]

Here Keller and Okrent disappoint us by prompting one of the fundamental
admonitions to novice journalists:  Don't TELL the reader, SHOW the reader what you know.

The way
to build reader confidence and improve the relevance of journalism
would have been to provide an online link to Williams' raw data so readers
could explore it for even richer insights and draw their own

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