Friday, August 21, 2009

Sources, schources... hic!

I don’t mean the people to whom you might end up going to shady bars (Press Club or IHC) who end up giving you absolutely pointless and often libelous information. No, I mean the ‘Anonymous’ source or the guy ‘who wished not to be named’ or worse still, ‘the one who cannot be named’. You see, after seeing headlines saying ‘Hindustan Khabardaar’ on Aaj Tak warning about the evil of American Global Hawk and Predator UAV’s now being bought by Pakistan along with the associated illiterate hype, the point is I think we live in a magical Harry Potter world and the reason that sources can’t be named even for the most innocuous story is because the source is either Voldemort or worse still, third-hand.
You know what I mean. Your editor lunched with someone at the Chambers and then tells you a story and tells you to do it. The news is credible and very likely true but you go on your editors word and its your byline. Everybody wins. But just reading some papers, the amount of people who are taking the ‘unnamed’ source escape route is getting crazy. I can’t act holier than thou here, I’ve also been guilty of this, but recently, actually for a few years, to save myself useless questioning later I’ve been informing a senior editor of who the source was if I resort to using the ‘anonymous’ tag. It is a lot safer to editorialize and express an opinion as your own than to constantly attribute to mysterious sources unless it is something policy related. Or when you start discussing the Ambani brothers… In which case just stepping back is a hell of a lot safer then getting dragged to lunches with ‘good friends’. Either that, or doing an analytical study of government and legal documents. Now these can be ‘sourced’ through ‘anonymous people’ but they’re printed documents so they’re a lot safer than ‘sources’.
Anyway, before I bind my argument in several layers of knots like my iPod headphones – what I want to argue is that occasionally ‘sources’ have to be used – most bureaucrats in the central government who are not Secretary-level don’t want to get into a soup and therefore don’t get quoted. And as for the Ambani brothers, nobody wants to get on their bad side. Fair enough. But then at least give me an idea of the source. If it is a corporate story did you get it from the PR flack (company spokesperson). The main reason I’m whining is because sometimes stories include far too many ‘anonymous sources’ and then trying to identify who is saying what becomes impossible for the writer, let alone the reader.
I know. I’ve been there. Just chill on the ‘sources’ credit will everyone? It will help with the credibility of what is being written and my bowel movements!
And if you haven’t read The Secret Diary of Ajit Balakrishnan as yet, you must! It reminds me of the early day’s of the Rakesh Jhunjhunwala spoof blog!


Rohan Singh said...

I saw a documentary called OutFOXed. It was basically about Murdoch's political views spread across through his "fair & balanced" news network. Anyway, one of the sections covered how the network put forward it's views under the guise of public views. One of the ways of doing it, " Some sources say..."

ms said...

another theory - jaswant and kulkarni to start their own party!

Anonymous said...

Nice post -- very informative!

Anonymous said...

you may like this -

Anonymous said...

Talking about anonymous, our sweet I&B bird (read Ms Soni) do talk to select reporters, give out gyaan and ask them not to quote her. Imagine a country, where minister is quoted in stories as source from the ministry. :)