Tyrades! Are You Fed Up with Anonymous Sources, Too?
July 16, 2020
What spoils even more evening meals than robocalls?
How about newscasts with their endless stream of titillating revelations coyly attributed to “reliable sources,” “people close to the matter,” “people familiar with the situation,” “people who thought the situation was a cast member of ‘Jersey Shore’,” etc.?
The whole concept of “close to the situation” is overrated. Lots of people “close to the situation” can’t see the forest for the trees until Columbo, Poirot or Jessica Fletcher waltz in and make them look like doofuses.
The overkill derives from the hyper-competitive 24-7 news cycle and the need to go beyond “dog bites man” and “man bites dog” to “man bites dog for not delivering the nuclear missile toads to a Russian duffle agent, or at least that’s what my source THOUGHT he overheard. Darned noisy pencil sharpener!”
Every reporter aspires to be Woodward and/or Bernstein. Or at least SOME 70s icon. (“Running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art? Boxing in a meat locker? Drinking raw eggs? I’m settling for Woodward and Bernstein!”)
Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely some true red-blooded heroes among the anonymous sources, but probably ALL the snitches envision themselves as being simply ordinary “aw, shucks” citizens whom Destiny thrust into just the right place at the right time to save the republic from an existential threat. Just like Destiny thrust them into just the right place (on their big brother’s shoulders) at the right time (two weeks before Christmas, 1995) to search the top shelf in their parents’ bedroom closet.
Confidential sources blow the whistle on a wide variety of abuses, but it’s funny how you NEVER hear one quoted saying, “The public needs to know that this company/bureau/agency has waaaay too many nonessential employees meandering around, stumbling into trouble.”
Whether it’s a case of wishful thinking, unmerciful deadlines or pure gullibility, reporters often do a haphazard job of ascertaining the motivations or agendas of leakers. We all know that disgruntled employees are capable of “going postal” in the workplace, but reporters have difficulty thinking on a smaller scale. (“Sure, my source might blow his boss’s brains out, but he would never stoop to falsely accusing him of emitting bad vibes at a company retreat.”)
Most of the wholesome newspapers that carry my column would never think of grooming confidential sources to sensationalize current events (“According to an unnamed onlooker, the mayor contemplated RUNNING with the ceremonial scissors for cutting the ribbon”), but flashy national publications might.
I look askance at some of the NAMED sources in newspapers (“The constellation Sagittarius promises an old friend/colleague/humanoid you haven’t seen in a long time will give you a bunch of money/time/solitude today”), so excuse me if I’m extra-leery of unnamed ones.
Most news isn’t WORTH an unauthorized preview. We used to long for TANGIBLE things. “Be the first on your street to drive a ’65 Mustang.” Now it’s more like “Be the first to learn a Hollywood casting scoop that will be obsolete by the time you finish your…too late!”
The elephant in the room is that nowadays a lot of us don’t even trust the REPORTERS/ANCHORS, let alone their vaunted sources. The circular reasoning used in establishing credentials is cringe-inducing. (“Of course, I’m a trustworthy reporter. My source can VERIFY that. And so can his wife…um, er…Morgan Fairchild! Yeah, that’s the ticket!”)
©2020 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Danny’s weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.