Why Journalism And Anonymous Sources Matter, Supreme Court’s Draft On Roe V. Wade Makes Point


We are told by some partisans that news sources are to be distrusted, reporters are not integral to democracy, and that there are even ‘alternative facts’.

Late Monday evening, all those lines fell faster than Russians on the Ukraine battlefield.

It was reported by Politico the Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito.

The ramifications of this story are enormous. Not only for health care rights for women, but also for privacy being understood, for decades, as an unenumerated right. Privacy has been a foundation for several large court decisions from the right to use contraception, to engage in private consensual sexual activity, and to marry someone of the same sex.

Make no mistake about how the legal weight of this abortion ruling could move the court going forward.

While all these issues and many more will be debated at length starting with Tuesday morning coffee in homes around the nation, I wish to give credit to the journalism profession, and specifically two reporters.

Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward.

We all should be proud of how they did their job with this story.

It needs to be noted that these journalists not only reported the story but also gave the full rounded coverage by writing that “it’s unclear if there have been subsequent changes to the draft” since February. They were not aiming for going beyond the fact the draft is a product from February.

They also fully grasped the gravity of the story surely being one of the newsroom’s biggest scoops and surely the biggest headline of their lives. They wrote that “No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending.”

The news about the court draft was able to be reported by the reporters due to the role of an anonymous source. It is these sources who are vital to a fuller understanding of what our government does and journalists are doing their job by then reporting on the information once it is firmly understood to have validity.

I understand that most people are not sitting around their living rooms contemplating anonymous sources. I can imagine how conservative media will be apoplectic today and feverishly disdainful of this news story, and how it was obtained.

To those who do not understand the role of anonymous sources, I have one name to add to this post.

Mark Felt.

It is absolutely true to say that had Felt not been an anonymous source there very well would not have been a Watergate story as we have come to know. It was “Deep Throat’ who alerted Bob Woodward in those parking garage conversations that presidential abuse was running rampant in the Nixon White House.

The pursuit of news, facts…the truth… is what reporters do. And anonymous sources are very much a way to allow the public to know what their government is doing.

And so it goes.

26 thoughts on “Why Journalism And Anonymous Sources Matter, Supreme Court’s Draft On Roe V. Wade Makes Point

  1. I don’t know if this draft supposedly from the Supreme Court is authentic or not so I’m not jumping on any bandwagon to condemn or condone what’s been reported by Politico, especially with the record that Politico has shown. What I am going to say is that I won’t stop saying the following until there is a very noticeable change in the way the political left produces and delivers their propaganda…

    The political left has shown its pattern of propaganda lies within their narratives so many times over the last 6+ years that it’s beyond me why anyone would blindly accept any narrative that the political left and their lapdog media actively push?

    This narrative from the political left is no different than any of their other narratives, it’s presented in a way to instill hate and mistrust, don’t trust it – yet!

    1. I have long argued that our educational standards for schools should include a news consumerism class so there would not be so many gullible people who are preyed on by those desiring partisan missions vs. news reporting. Always stunned by the lower educated not able to discern differences between news article and let’s say, editorial from Wall Street Journal or NYT. That lack of knowledge is then translated into political dysfunction among a segment of electorate.

    2. A statement just released from the Supreme Court verifies that the leaked document is authentic,

      “Justices circulate draft opinions internally as a routine and essential part of the Court’s confidential deliberative work. Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case”

      There, authenticity is settled. Now they have to find the leak and fire that person, if it was a lawyer have them brought up on ethics charges with the bar, and if any criminal activity took place prosecute the person to the full extent of the law.

      1. You note that the Court has made it clear the draft is what Politico reported it to be. But just this past week ‘the House Speaker to be’ stated he did not say what recorded tapes proved he, in fact, did say. And we still have people thinking that Mccarthy did not say, what in fact, he did. We live in a time when reporters need to do their job, knowing about 35% of the public, though not necessarily an informed part of the public as evidenced by the recordings, will simply repeat their partisan lines. The use of anonymous sources, with both the court draft and the words of McCarthy, matter. Credible news operations, through the use of anonymous sources, are telling readers or viewers that they should be trusted. While they cannot tell you who this person is, they can, through the past use of a source or the information being of such a type (draft or recording) that there is a level of credible belief, that the source is providing factual material. Without such sources, the public would not be aware of what McCarthy said, or the rupturing of a law that has nearly 70% approval in the nation. The reporters will not, and must not ever, divulge their sources. No one is going to get fired. Nor should they. A strong Fourth Estate makes for a strong democray. And that is a very good thing.

          1. Is it propaganda, or a fundamental lack of understanding regarding the workings of a free press? A growing disdain for facts from an overly-tribalized partisan electorate?

            1. dekerivers wrote, “Is it propaganda, or a fundamental lack of understanding regarding the workings of a free press? A growing disdain for facts from an overly-tribalized partisan electorate?”

              The answer is yes, yes to all the above with one caveat; it’s not necessarily that there is a growing disdain for facts but the inability to discern fact from biased opinionated propaganda.

              PROPAGANDA: The expression of opinions or actions carried out deliberately by individuals or groups with a view to influencing the opinions or actions of other individuals or groups for predetermined ends and through psychological manipulations. Harold Lasswell

              Depending on their bias; there are really stupid people out there that actually think that shows like MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show”, Fox News’ “The Five”, Oprah Winfrey and Tucker Carlson are the keepers of all knowledge that is good and wise and great sources for news/journalism. Bias can truly make people stupid! It’s like there’s a slew of woefully immature adults out there trying their skills at adulting (I’m talking with middle school maturity) and they’re failing miserably.

              Your statement that “our educational standards for schools should include a news consumerism class so there would not be so many gullible people who are preyed on by those desiring partisan missions vs. news reporting.” is a way to curb the gullibility but the pure biased tribalism is overriding critical thinking and common sense. You can lead a horse to water…

              Consumers using critical thinking and logic when consuming “the news” is becoming quaint and now it’s politically correct to simply think with pure emotionalism and biased tribalism. The vast majority of what we see, hear and read in the media is partisan activism of some sort or another, a.k.a. propaganda, it’s not journalism. This is a HUGE problem for the fourth estate and our culture.

        1. Dekerivers wrote, “No one is going to get fired. Nor should they.”

          You and I are going to be on opposite sides on that point.

          This was not, I repeat NOT, a case of a whistle blower revealing an illegal activity or even a perceived illegal activity thus protecting this individual from retaliatory action, this was a egregious breach of trust and a unbridled betrayal of the confidences within the institution of the Supreme Court and it was done for pure political activism purposes. I don’t care which side of the abortion argument this individuals’ activism resides, they were wrong and they’ve earned loosing big time as a result of their actions. Anyone that engages in this kind of unethical action that’s part of the Supreme Court staff should be immediately and permanently removed from their position at the Court. If it was an actual lawyer that leaked this they should also have their law license stripped by the Bar for ethics violations. As far as I’m concerned whoever did this can spend the rest of their life flipping burgers at McDonald’s or scraping out the bottom of human waste septic tanks.

          No Dekerivers, this kind of egregious unethical action cannot be rationalized away and go unpunished.

          1. Nor does it need to be an illegal activity that allows for a source to come forth, and a reporter to use it in a story. Recall (recently) The Wisconsin State Journal reported that MPD Chief Barnes sent an internal message to officers that he would seek to fire anyone found to have leaked to the local media information about the resignation of a lieutenant who had been videotaped engaging in sexual activity with a woman in his squad car in a store parking lot. There is a right of citizens to know what their public servants do while being paid for with tax dollars. That is not a new concept. When a 15-year employee of the department, no less, the West Police District’s head of the patrol, was caught in a sex act in a police car in broad daylight it does merit public scrutiny. Such a lack of regard for sound judgment from someone who works for a department that does concern itself with public relations deserves public attention. But transparency was not the route our police chief chose to follow. It was due to an anonymous source that we do know.

            1. dekerivers wrote, “Nor does it need to be an illegal activity that allows for a source to come forth, and a reporter to use it in a story.”

              Oh give me a break, please reread what I wrote.

              I was specifically talking about the protections given to whistleblowers and this person does not get those kinds of protections.

              The Whistleblower Protection Act protects “any disclosure of information” by federal government employees that they “reasonably believes evidences an activity constituting a violation of law, rules, or regulations, or mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.” It prohibits retaliation such as demotions, pay cuts, or dismissals for blowing the whistle and provides legal remedies to whistleblowers who experience such retaliation. It also allows whistleblowers to make their disclosures confidentially.

              The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) explicitly protects disclosures to the Office of the Special Counsel and the Office of the Inspector General. Each executive agency has an Inspector General.

              The WPA also protects disclosures to Congress.

              The draft opinion that was leaked was not a “violation of law, rules, or regulations, or mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety”, it was a confidential opinion (not even a final opinion) circulated between Supreme Court Justices. Confidentiality is paramount to the function of the Supreme Court of the United States! The individual that leaked this draft is an unethical political activist that’s trying to politicize and undermine the Supreme Court. The leaker is a real political scumbag that needs to be removed from the court and relegated to cleaning the outhouse (5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat) on inflight rusty old DC3’s that’s transporting rubber dog crap from China. This is not an honored whistleblower deserving legal protections, this is a rationalizing political hack*.

              I don’t think your MPD Chief Barnes unethical internal message analogy adds any clarity to this I think it muddies the waters, it’s apples and oranges.

              In my opinion; there needs to be a special prosecutor put in place to investigate this egregious breach of trust and unbridled betrayal of the confidences within the institution of the Supreme Court to find out who all is directly and indirectly involved in this intentional politicization of the Supreme Court. Do you want political activist to destroy our justice system? This kind of political activism intentionally politicizing and therefore undermining our non-political third branch of government cannot stand unpunished otherwise it will permanently tarnish and undermine the Supreme Court from this point on.

              Since undermining the Supreme Court seems to be a core goal of illiberal extreme “progressives” (progressives is an oxymoron, they are actually regressive), I’d put dollars to donuts that this leaker is an irrational 21st century social justice warrior, a.k.a. an illiberal extreme “progressive” Democrat. Illiberal extreme “progressive” Democrat’s seem to have given up on the the justice system and our Courts of Law and are in favor of using the 21st century cancel culture’s Court of Public Opinion (that’s based on pure emotion, zero critical thinking and absolutely no logic) to intimidate the public and the courts to get their way.

              *Political Hack is a morally bankrupt person that has actually chosen to be a political tool, a political attack dog, a “hired gun”. The intentions of a political hack are aligned with victory NOT personal conviction, ethics or morals. The purpose of a political hack is to gin up hate for their political opposition and detract them from their messaging using any and all means necessary. The ends justifies the means is a core belief of a political hack.

              1. The comments you have offered on this post do underscore my point about how conservatives would react to this draft release. “I can imagine how conservative media will be apoplectic today and feverishly disdainful of this news story, and how it was obtained.” While I am intrigued about the role journalism played in relation to this story–hence the reason for the post for the most part–I am very aware the vast majority of the nation cares less about how either you or I view the role of the reporter or the source. And that does concern me as this is a learning moment for the nation, and a way the press can use a most important issue to demonstrate how news is obtained and reported. The earthquake is, of course, in and of itself the news. And I certainly understand that, and I know you do to. I do have to laugh, however, at your assumption about who is the source, as it reminds me of how minutes after a mass shooting it is generally assumed a white male with conservative background is responsible. Like those news stories it is best to let the facts lead, and the news reporters to alert us of unfolding developments. (But I must say this conversation has been enjoyable with you.)

                1. Dekerivers wrote, “The comments you have offered on this post do underscore my point about how conservatives would react to this draft release. ‘I can imagine how conservative media will be apoplectic today and feverishly disdainful of this news story, and how it was obtained.’ “

                  If I’m catching your drift in that statement correctly, that may not be an entirely accurate description of my comments here. Although I do disdain the politically motivated unethical action taken by the leaker I have not in any way been apoplectic or feverishly disdainful of the news story itself. My criticism is 100% directed at the actions of the leaker and I think every critically thinking thinking adult should be very angry at this person for intentionally trying to politicize and undermine the Supreme Court of the United States. Politico obtaining the story and publishing it is a fair game journalism story, Politico are not the ones that unethically leaked the information, I have no problem with them publishing it. If you’ve gotten a different impression of my intent it was completely unintended.

                  Dekerivers wrote, “I do have to laugh, however, at your assumption about who is the source”

                  I stand by my observational assumption of the leaker until facts prove me wrong. The point that you may have missed is that I don’t care what the leaker’s ideological viewpoints are, what the leaker did was wrong!

                  Dekerivers wrote, “I must say this conversation has been enjoyable with you.”

                  I completely agree.

  2. Cornelius_Gotchberg

    IMO, false analogy; Mark Felt was unearthing clearly illegal, and manifestly unethical, activity.

    The SCOTUS draft leaker/s are committing clearly illegal, and manifestly unethical, activity.

    The Gotch

      1. Cornelius_Gotchberg

        ​”No law was violated.”

        You’s don’t say…?

        No law was broken? Or you believe this to be true because you read a headline that claims it’s true?

        Doesn’t matter; 18 U.S.C. § 641…theft or misuse of government-owned things of value?

        Howse about if it was hacked from a computer, or stolen from a desk or file? In a fact-based Universe, the leaker could be prosecuted with computer fraud, theft, and or abuse.

        Good thing this didn’t happen during the Hopey Changey Regime; they’d have been prosecuted under the Progressive Espionage Act so fast it’d make their head swim.

        Speaking of the self-anointed 4th Greatest President EVAH and whistleblowers, more of the latter were prosecuted during his Administration, than during ALL_OTHER_PREVIOUS_ADMINISTRATIONS_COMBINED!

        Prosecuted…”for doing the right thing”…Progressively…?

        The Gotch

        1. David Gerard

          Chief Justice Warren E. Burger wrote in a footnote in his dissent in the Pentagon Papers case, which refused to block publication of a secret history of the Vietnam War, “No statute gives this court express power to establish and enforce the utmost security measures for the secrecy of our deliberations and records.”

  3. patrickmoloughlin

    “The ramifications of this story are enormous. Not only for health care rights for women, but also for privacy being understood, for decades, as an enumerated right.”

    Funny that you should put your finger directly on the issue about which you are wrong.

    Privacy is not, and never was an enumerated right. Those rights are, you know, enumerated, and privacy is not on the enumerated list. The constitutional right to privacy was invented by the court to accommodate the legal gymnastics necessary to produce Roe vs Wade. Even the sainted RBG understood that it was “bad law,” and said so. Overturning Roe was inevitable, just as overturning separate but equal was. And it’s not conservatives who are apoplectic this morning.

    1. You could not be more unaware of legal history or reasoning. In Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Supreme Court ruled that a state’s ban on the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy.

    2. patrickmoloughlin,
      What you’re forgetting about privacy is that privacy IS a core part of liberty.

      LIBERTY
      The state of being free within society from
      oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on
      one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.

      The quality or state of being free.

      Freedom from arbitrary or despotic control.

      The positive enjoyment of various social, political,
      or economic rights and privileges.

      The power of choice.

      Freedom from control, interference, obligation,
      restriction, hampering conditions, etc.;
      power or right of doing, thinking,
      speaking, etc., according to choice.

      The freedom to live as you wish or go where you want.

      It’s none of your damn business what I choose to do with my life unless my actions are in violation of law or infringe upon the rights of others.

      The right to life just happens to be another core of liberty and everything that make humans part of “humanity”, this is where abortion is in direct conflict with morals and rights.

  4. patrickmoloughlin

    Well it may be a core value of liberty (or pursuit of happiness,) but it is not an enumerated right. And you are correct Steve, when you say that it is none of my business, what you do with your own life. But this question is about what somebody does with another, separate life.

    1. Again you can not be more wrong on the history of the legal outcomes and reasoning regarding privacy, which is an enumerated right. enumerated right. For example, in 1969, the Court unanimously concluded that the right of privacy protected an individual’s right to possess and view pornography Drawing support for the Court’s decision from both the First and Fourth Amendments, Justice Marshall wrote in Stanley v Georgia:

      “Whatever may be the justifications for other statutes regulating obscenity, we do not think they reach into the privacy of one’s own home. If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.”

    2. patrickmoloughlin wrote, “And you are correct Steve, when you say that it is none of my business, what you do with your own life. But this question is about what somebody does with another, separate life.”

      Forgive my ignorance; but, exactly what part of…

      “…unless my actions are in violation of law or infringe upon the rights of others.”

      ..and…

      “The right to life just happens to be another core of liberty and everything that make humans part of “humanity”, this is where abortion is in direct conflict with morals and rights.”

      …did you not understand? It’s almost like you didn’t even read those parts of my comment.

      For my full opinion on abortion, please read the following in its entirety,
      Imagine If You Will…

  5. Cornelius_Gotchberg

    Aspiring underage tattoo recipients have protections.

    “According to data through March 2015 compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 45 states have laws prohibiting minors from getting tattoos, with the majority of those states allowing it if there’s parental consent. For example, Florida law requires written, notarized consent of a minor’s parent or legal guardian in order to tattoo a minor.”

    Aspiring underage abortion recipients, and the unborn? Not so much.

    ”According to Guttmacher Institute, a group that tracks abortion policy and statistics, a majority of states require consent and/or notification. In 37 states, minors need parental consent and/or notification, while 11 states and Washington D.C. require neither.

    Nationwide it’s easier, or at least not as difficult, for minors to get an abortion than it is for them to get a tattoo.

    The Gotch

    1. Even though that is a bit of a tangent to the topic, it’s a really interesting analogy that brings a unique perspective and certain kind of clarity to a small part of the general abortion discussion.

      When is it reasonably appropriate for what society considers “children” to make their own life decisions that can affect the rest of their lives?

      …and…

      When is it reasonable to strip parents of their legal authority over the life choices that their children make and legally emancipate children from their parents so the child can make their own life decisions?

      This is prominent in people’s minds these days with gender reclassification discussions and actions happening with children as young as 1st grade without the permission or knowledge of the parents. Getting a tattoo, or abortion, or donating a kidney, or joining the military, or smoking, or taking heroin, or even something like going skydiving, or run out into the street without looking, etc, etc can also affect the rest of their lives.

      Are gender woke parents or gender woke enablers that think that children as young as Kindergarten are mature enough to make a life changing choice like gender reclassification (I personally know a family like this) willing to allow those same children get a tattoo, get an abortion, donate a kidney, joining the military, start smoking, take heroin, go skydiving, or run out into the street without looking, etc, etc or are these gender woke people brazen hypocrites?

      Seriously; where does society and parents draw this line without being brazen hypocrites?

      This can be a really tough choice for society to answer because it can, and will, have far-reaching effects.

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