Another day, another “bombshell news story that will bring down Donald Trump.” Yesterday, the Washington Post published a story stating the President shared top secret information with Russian spies (which, granted, is pretty much any Russian citizen at this point). This got the Left salivating like Pavlov’s dogs at a kettle bell concert. And how did WaPo get this information? Anonymous sources.
Of course, the story fell flat when someone who was actually in the room when this “top secret” information was shared came out and said it didn’t happen. Further news reports have suggested the “top secret” information was something the Russians already knew about laptop security risks on airplanes. I’ve seen cheap rugs unravel slower than this latest “bombshell.”
Now, if this was an isolated incident, I might be willing to laugh it off. (Oh, and laugh at WaPo.) The problem is it isn’t. Since Trump was elected, the media have spent column inches and airtime doing whatever they could to undercut the President. Often, these attempts involve trying to find people deep within the Trump Administration willing to speak to the press. And with so many holdovers from Barack Obama’s Presidency, it shouldn’t be hard to find someone willing to squeal like a pig doing a Ned Beatty impression.
And when that doesn’t work, they lie.
Okay, that last statement may be a little harsh, but it might not be too far off from the truth. Today’s news cycle is such that media outlets will rush with a story to be first and then issue corrections after the fact. As you might guess, this can be problematic on so many levels, not the least of which being legally. A badly-sourced story that is first out of the gate will grab attention, but it may also grab the attention of libel lawyers looking for a quick settlement. Without getting too far into the weeds here, libel requires the accused to have malicious intent for spreading false information about another person and have no knowledge of the truth. The former is pretty much a given, and the latter would be hard to believe, given the people committing libel are news outlets.
Kinda makes you wonder how smart reporters really are, doesn’t it?
The problem with anonymous sources is they could be anyone. You may get some inside information from a disgruntled government employee (which is pretty much any government employee), or it may be Earl, the custodial worker with more conspiracy theories than he has teeth. We have no way of knowing whether the anonymous source is Deep Throat or merely watched the movie by the same name. In either case, relying heavily on sources you can’t verify is like playing Russian Roulette with someone who always gets the rules backwards. You may get by with it for a while, but eventually you’re going to get hurt.
And it’s for this very reason we shouldn’t accept anonymous sources as gospel until their information can be verified. If this can’t be done, the story shouldn’t be released to the public because once you open that Pandora’s Box of information, you can’t undo it. It’s permanent.
What these media outlets can and should do is verify the information before going public with it. You know, what news folks are supposed to do? Until then, we as news consumers should take anonymously sourced stories with a pretty big grain of salt.
Like the size of Mt. Everest.