Just don’t use my name
It’s a little surprising that the scholarly pundits haven’t yet fastened on the outbreak of anonymous sourcing to tell the Kobe Bryant story.
The tsk-tsking over this technique has been notably lacking, so far. Perhaps that’s because, like everything else about this event standing on its head, the anonymous sources are proving more reliable than that parade of teens and youngest adults eager to give their names and be interviewed on national television.
Still, this is a bigger, more controversial deal than the discussion over whether victims in sexual assault cases should be named in print or on the air. For all the tortured explanations and logic in answering the question, the fact is that as a profession, we don’t name them. It’s not even a difficult decision. Society is not ready. Bryant’s case only makes that fact plainer, given the viciousness of the basketball star’s most ardent defenders.
Media organizations range in their use of unidentified sources from the Orange County Register in Southern California declaring they never will use a source they don’t name to outfits that will anonymously speculate on matters as pedestrian as what rock band, big-name bicyclist or highfalutin hotel might be coming to town sometime in the future.
ABC acknowledged resetting its policies about cross checking multiple sources before using anonymous information in the heat of the Bryant coverage. One reliable one became good enough. For the cable networks aside from CNN, if a “friend” said it, it’s going on the air.
The Daily has staked a middle ground, as with other aspects of coverage of this case. The mantra is this: It has to be true. It has to be relevant. We have broken parts of the story, using anonymous sources. We’ve also debunked the most egregious and persistent falsehoods. We’ve chosen not to report parts and lost scoops because we didn’t see where they fit the case, or we didn’t quite trust the information. And, of course, sharp outfits have broken other parts of the story or provided insightful reports on aspects of the case we either hadn’t gotten to or hadn’t thought to cover yet.
The weekly Vail Trail, aside from its by now habitually venomous and fact-free clucking about the various evils of the Daily, has done good work in pieces looking at racism and rape in Eagle County. Some of it with anonymous sourcing.
As the smoke clears between Kobe Bryant’s court appearances, the thoughtful columnists and the academics are bound to think deeply about the use of unnamed sources.
Who knows, maybe Kobe will inspire reform here, as O.J. did with DNA lab work.