Why Unnamed Sources Matter To Reporters And Citizens Alike

Nothing seems to lather up the Fox News demographic quite as easily as when unnamed sources are used by reporters and news operations.  The use of such sources, so as to allow citizens access to information about their government, seems not to be understood by a sizable segment of the nation.

With that in mind, while reading Churchill by Andrew Roberts, I came across one of those shining–or should I say glaring–examples as to why unnamed sources matter.  To bore the point deeper the example comes from The New York Times.

Readers of history know the fallout resulting from the Dardanelles campaign during World War I.  What many may not have known is what was quoted by an unnamed source leading up to what became a military debacle.

Churchill had a report leading up to the military actions in the Dardanelles which quoted an unnamed naval officer in the appendix who argued that time and “the policy of watchful waiting” was on the Allies’ side and “those amateur strategists who demand that the British Fleet should charge madly over minefields to get to the Germans simply ask England to commit suicide”.  Churchill did not circulate the report with the unnamed source to the War Council.

There are absolutely credible reasons why unnamed sources speak to reporters, and why reporters write their stories and inform the people.  Reporters have a duty to protect the identity of their sources.  That should be obvious.  The reasons include the fact whistleblowers can lose their jobs if their identity were made known, and sources in dangerous areas could face death.

Unnamed sources elicit more information for the citizen via conversations with reporters.  Such sources are a most vital link in the work journalists do, providing a powerful ingredient so citizens know what the government is doing in their name.