Okay, so the source in the campaign is me. But check out this front page NYTimes story about how Dean is overhauling his campaign. It's written by Wilgoren and Nagourney. Let's run it through the SBJ Code of Ethics and see which violation cries the loudest to Journalism Heaven.
* Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
I counted sixteen unnamed sources in the article. Statements, conclusions and information that indicate desperation in the campaign were attributed to "several advisers", "One adviser", "Democrats close to the campaign" and the ubiquitous "aides". For example:
-- "Several advisers said they were increasingly concerned that he could face a loss in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday that could be devasting to this once high-flying cadidate."
--"...a televised debate that Dr. Dean's advisorsview as critical to reviving his fortunes.
--"The moves came as senior advisers expressed concern in interviews that Dr. Dean's candidacy was imperiled after a third-place finish in Iowa and a roaring, raucous concession speech that many opponents have held up as evidence that Dr. Dean is unfit to be president.
This is a big deal. If you don't want to name a source, let the reader know why. Apparently, one of Gov. Dean's most "prominent supporters did not want to be identified as sharing his private advice to Dr. Dean". When they get quotes from people like Steven Grossman, the chairman of the campaign, we know his name. We know that they spoke to Paul Maslin, Gov. Dean's pollster because he's named. Why are the other people unnamed? I think it's because they aren't important to the campaign, but love the idea of talking to the press. I don't think their opinions and inside information amount to much within the campaign but they do bolster the press' obsession with Dean's anger and its characterization of the campaign in disarray as workers scramble to sort through the "advice" that "Dr. Dean's advisers" said they had been "deluged" with.
* Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
Who can say what is deliberate, but look at this paragraph:
"The change in tactics comes at a time of both gloom and defiance among many of Dr. Dean's supporters, some of whom said he had been unfairly pilloried for his concession speech. "They're writing his obituary and stuff, but I remember when McCain beat Bush in New Hampshire last time, everybody said Bush was dead," said Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. "Check his address now."
Where's a quote that would explain the claim that Gov. Dean's rallying speech in Iowa was unfairly pilloried? They could have gotten one of those from Gov. Dean himself instead of an unnamed aide. Instead we get a he's-not-dead-yet moment from Sen. Harkin, which is almost a non-sequitor, since they threw in the part about the Iowa speech being unfairly characterized. This makes it look like the campaign has no real answer to the mischaracterization.
One more - this is probably a stretch but it bugs me:
"As Dr. Dean took a break at his home, his aides met in Burlington to plot out some of the steps. "I don't make a seven-hour round trip when I don't have to," Mr. Grossman said."
This comes nineteen paragraphs and a page later than the paragraph in which we meet Mr. Grossman first getting into his car for the trip. But when I first read the article, it seemed as if Mr. Grossman were avoiding the trip to Burlington because it would be pointless. That is the tone of the piece, after all - check out the pictures for comfirmation. Those poor kids sure look gloomy to me. Which makes me wonder if this bit of advice from the SBJ wasn't ignord: Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context. Maybe if Gov. Dean would be allowed to rally them with a rousing reminder of everything we have at stake in this election, they'd perk up. But that would be unseemly.
You can be sure that Gov. Dean is only the first candidate in 2004 to go through exactly what Al Gore went through in 2000. The other DemCans ought to support him instead of watching while the press drag him off. Because when Kerry is cast as the dour, indecisive National Mortician and Edwards, with his boyish good looks is cast as the unsubstantial, well-meaning but clueless Breck Girl and Wesley Clark, who, as the favorite story goes, wanted to start WWIII in Pristina, is cast as a loopy loose cannon with a gun stashed under that green sweater, they'll all be wishing that somebody had stood up to the Heathers, who are determined to be part of the news rather than report it.
UPDATE: I found out today that there's a kind of tacitly accepted practice in journalism to have a source named and unnamed in the same article, if, for instance s/he says something s/he considers inflammatory. I'm not surprised by that, but I don't think I'll let up on Ms. Wilgoren and Mr. Nagourney for all the unnamed sources in their article. We can guess that some are the people named, but we can also guess that they were people hanging around Gov. Dean's headquarters with not a lot of insight. Name your sources or let us know why you don't.