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On the Condition of AnonymityUnnamed Sources and the Battle for Journalism$
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Matt Carlson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780252035999

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252035999.001.0001

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Media Culpas: Prewar Reporting Mistakes at the New York Times and Washington Post

Media Culpas: Prewar Reporting Mistakes at the New York Times and Washington Post

(p.31) 1 Media Culpas: Prewar Reporting Mistakes at the New York Times and Washington Post
On the Condition of Anonymity

Matt Carlson

University of Illinois Press

This chapter looks at how two newspapers used unnamed sources in reports leading up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. When Iraq's weapons of mass destruction failed to materialize, critics on the left and from within journalism chastised the New York Times and Washington Post for overly credulous, unnamed source-laden investigative reporting appearing on their front pages in the buildup to the war. The newspapers responded by revisiting their unnamed sourcing practices, but not until more than a year after the invasion. These self-assessments generated attention around two problems negatively impacting prewar coverage: the calculated press management strategies of the Bush administration, and the willingness of the competing newspapers to reproduce official statements anonymously. The complex problems marking the journalist-unnamed source exchange come to light through these efforts to attach blame both to the sources and the journalists.

Keywords:   New York Times, Washington Post, Iraq invasion, prewar coverage, investigative reporting, unnamed sourcing, press management, official statements

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