Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dear Jane Taber,

From: Jeff Jedras

Sent: July 12, 2007 5:06:23 AM



Dear Ms. Taber,

As a fellow journalist, I'm wondering if you can tell me why you felt it necessary to grant anonymity to the person you called a "veteran Liberal" in your article in the Globe this morning, Dion loses a fifth Liberal MP. This person's comments, sent by e-mail even, seem to add little to the story except unattributed, unsourced gossipy backbiting.

As a journalist I totally understand the need for unnamed sources at times. For example, the whistle blower who is trying to expose wrongdoing, or the person exposing information on organized crime that fears for their life. Those are all scenarios where protecting the identity of a source would be warranted.

I wonder though, what's your rationale for granting your "veteran Liberal" anonymity? Does he or she fear for their life, or their job? It seems unlikely.

By granting them anonymity you make their comments useless. By not letting us know who they are you don't give us the information we as readers need to judge if their comments are valid. Is this just the bitter, jaded lashing-out of a minor organizer of another ex-leadership candidate? Or is it a credible person without an axe to grind whom should be taken seriously? I don't know, you haven't told me.

The other question is, given that their life is not in danger, would this person have still made these comments on the record? If the answer is no, you have to question why the Globe is willing to provide a forum for wimpy anonymous backbiting and gossip. Doesn't sound like Canada's national newspaper to me.

When considering granting anonymity to a source, which I've always thought should be done very sparingly, I was taught the exercise is to balance the public's need to know the information vs. the public's right to know the source so as to judge its veracity. Yet in it's political coverage the Globe seems to make a habit of anonymous sources. Frankly, it smacks of lazy journalism.

In closing, I'd like to know does the Globe and Mail have a policy when it comes to granting anonymity to sources? Is it made by the reporter or the editor? And how was the policy applied in this case?


Jeff Jedras

A semi-veteran junior Liberal

UPDATE: Thank-you to Jane for her prompt, if unsatisfying response:

The issue of on-the-record and off-the-record is a tricky one. It always has been. I use off-the-record sources often. It's not ideal, I know, but sadly it's a reality of the job. I trust the people I speak to and quote ... And if you feel strongly about it then really strive in your writing to change this.
Thanks for ypur comments.

Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

I'm still left wondering what the Globe policy is on anonymous sources, if any. Is there a discussion with editors, or is it the whim of the reporter?

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Bailey said...

I'd like to hear the reponse you get on this one...

It's probably Ray Heard.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Ask and ye shall receive, see the update.

But I'm pretty sure it's not Ray Heard. He's go on the record, and make sure they spelled his name right...

Warren said...


Great letter. It's too bad you didn't get the answers you were looking for, I would have liked to hear them.