David Broder Implies Anonymous Sources Always "Conscientious"

In his Washington Post column today, David Broder takes on the government-press relationship, but predictably, only the government side is evaluated. In Broder's eyes, it's suspicious government vs. idealistic press corps:

This is a troubling case for those of us in journalism. Our view is that it's the government's responsibility to keep its secrets secret and that it's our responsibility to ferret out information so the public is aware of the actions being taken in its name...But we also know that administrations of both parties tend to restrict information -- and that the only way for the public to learn of questionable policies or actions is for conscientious individuals to break that official code of silence.

Broder completely avoids the question: how can we truly know if the leaking individuals are "conscientious," and not merely motivated by career ambitions or political motivations or personal hatreds when they remain anonymous? Surely, it cannot be merely assumed as a rule with no exception. 

Broder discusses briefly the case of CIA leaker Mary McCarthy, but doesn't acknowledge that what we've learned about her -- especially her record of donations to John Kerry and the Democratic Party -- usually hides behind the cloak of anonymity. Why should people who support this administration believe that any of the anonymous sources used by a liberal newspaper like the Post or the New York Times is automatically "conscientious"? We ought to insist that anonymously-sourced stories should be greeted with great suspicion since the sources' agendas are hidden.

The conclusion is rather obvious for Broder, that the tension between Team Bush and the press is all Bush's fault:

The tension between the legitimate claims of secrecy and the need for public accountability remains, however, and in many respects has grown worse. The main reason is the reluctance of this president and his administration to accept a broad and continuing responsibility to keep the public and the press informed on the reasons for the policies they have adopted.

Once again, Broder fails to make any admission that the press feels no responsibility to keep the public informed on the reasons for the stories they have unearthed, as you can see in the New York Times and its editor, Bill Keller, absolutely refusing to address how and why (other than Pulitzer Prizes and book profits) they unveiled the NSA surveillance program of terrorists.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis