Friday, May 12, 2006

Yes, of course, we can handle the truth

There are statements that have little literal meaning, but are repeatedly made anyway. When an official of government or a large corporation unexpectedly “quits,” for example, it is always reported that he or she “resigned” or “retired” (read those words as, “was fired”) “…in order to spend more time with his [or her] family.” Does any reporter who writes that believe it? Does any reader?

An investigative reporter gets an official to reveal information not wanted to be revealed by the principals involved, and the one telling the truth uses the reporter/source confidentiality rules to remain anonymous. “The official spoke on the condition of anonymity.” We have read it countless times. But the statement has recently evolved.

Now we read, “An administration source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation said that…”

What does that mean, “because of the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation”? I think first of that movie a few years ago when the Jack Nicholson character on the witness stand tells the Tom Cruise lawyer character, “You can’t handle the truth!”

“…because of the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation.” Such crap. We aren't allowed to know who is telling the truth about the case because of the sensitivity of the investigation? What difference would it make to know who it was who leaked/planted/revealed the truth during a “sensitive investigation”?

What we need is for a reporter to write, “A government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wanted the truth to be known, but feared being ostracized or fired, said that...”

Nicholson is a great actor. But his character was wrong. Perhaps liars can’t handle the truth, but the rest of us can. It is just that we are so rarely told what it is.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

amusing, but sadly true.

5/13/2006 9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have seen that "beause of the sensitive nature..." statement a couple of times since reading your post last week. You are right. What is behind that?

5/20/2006 7:40 AM  
Anonymous pintoburro said...

There is a Washington Post story today reporting the burglary of vets' ID info. At one point the authors, Christopher Lee and Steve Vogel, say, "The burglary occurred May 3 in Wheaton, Md., according to a source with knowledge of the incident who did not want to be identified because the matter is under investigation."

There's the B.S. for you. Do Chris and Steve mean that if the matter were not under investigation, then the source would be willing to identify him/her self?

I'm with you. It is bogus journalism.

5/23/2006 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you may be on to something. an Associated Press story today by Anne Gearan about Bush backing the Israel plans began the last paragraph like this: "but a senior Bush administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was describing private meetings, said..."

does that mean that he was telling private info that he shouldn't be revealing? or gossiping? and does that mean the reporter was printing private materials not meant for publication? is someone, or more, breaking a law here?

if not, if the info is fair game for the reporter, and not really private so that the anonymous person may legally and ethically reveal it, then why not step up and give your name if you are the one giving the information?

and if that is not the case, then someone needs to be arrested.

5/24/2006 11:52 PM  
Anonymous Royce Barnum said...

Before this one,you had four comments about folks not willing to identify sources. Three of those four chose to be "anonymous."

"Amusing, but sadly true."

"What is behind that?"

"...why not step up and give your name if you are the one giving the information?"

6/14/2006 10:14 PM  

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