Sources and Attribution–A Discussion

While the GUARDIAN works hard at offering up good factual information within the posts we make, it is difficult to verify the comments made by readers–most of whom use an alias.

This past week we allowed a lengthy comment regarding Valley Regional Transit and its managers. It was less than complimentary and one reader felt it lacked credibility because the author didn’t use his/her real name. That touched off a minor flurry of comments and prompted a private comment from a “legacy media” reporter who said, “We simply cannot publish things like that without attribution.”

And here lies the difference between the constraints of traditional journalism and today’s internet citizen journalists. The old school reporters like to dismiss those of us who provide a forum and outlet for folks who can’t afford a Public Relations staff or hold elective office as “Local Bloggers”
while bemoaning the fact we often scoop them with stories of official misdeeds.

Meanwhile, as a well respected blog–at least well read–the GUARDIAN lives in fear of someone using the forum to make false accusations that go beyond mere opinion. With a one man part time staff it is nearly impossible to check out every comment or allegation.

When we make a formal posting–not reader comments–the GUARDIAN pretty much has the facts nailed down whether we go into details or not. We have a proven record of rooting out improper or illegal activities such as theft of city property at the poop farm, use of city tools for private purposes, workers moonlighting on city time or using city resources, government inflating value of property for trades, public money being used for private club membership, using tax money to fund parties for lobbyists and legislators, giving away a bus to an employee of the transit agency,…and the list goes on.

In nearly every one of those stories, we got the tip or important information from honest decent insiders who wanted wrongs to be righted. If those who helped the GUARDIAN or offered comments were to provide their names or positions in government, they would risk their careers.

If it is good enough to use anonymous sources for tips to the CRIMESTOPPERS, MAYOR HOTLINE, or to get a court ordered search warrant, it is good enough for us. We will continue to be wary.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Legacy Media - Sayonara
    Feb 27, 2009, 6:23 pm

    The legacy media has done such a good job of protecting themselves from taking a false step, they are now unable to walk.

    As the guardian proves, repeatedly, there is demand for good investigative stories.

    One would hope the legacy gang would relearn that point before they drown in their own red ink. I am not optimistic.

  2. Nice “article”. I agree with everything said above. However, the article in question was a little harsh as it showed some emotion. It is best to keep the emotion and just stick to the facts or allegations.

    P.S. Clancy is my real name 😉

  3. People always seem to get angrier when the shots get closer and closer to the truth. MSM does such a poor job of reporting. Websites like this one are where the real news is made.

  4. Almost Fired
    Feb 27, 2009, 8:16 pm

    I’ve almost been fired twice for responding on this blog. My vote is for anonymity.

  5. It was no coincidence that our founding fathers made freedom of speech the First Amendment to the Constitution. I support BG’s posting of the VRT comment. To those, er, the one who complained, this website is a forum. It is not a knitting circle nor is it a court of law. I can only speak for myself, but I’m pretty damn sure I know how to read objectively and have the ability reach rational conclusions regarding anything written here or anywhere else. After all, I’m eligible for jury duty, and might some day be called to a case that involves sending a man or woman to their death.

  6. sharon fisher
    Feb 28, 2009, 9:26 am

    Some websites have been nailed for things said by the ‘anonymous’ commenters, and forced to turn over names. Just so you know.

  7. Yes this is my real name!
    I don`t post often but do read this blog all the time & like it very much, thank you.
    In my opinion the news media stinks and isn`t worth reading anymore. The talking heads on TV just mimic each other with buzz words that lack much of anything. Newspapers are going bust because they have fallen in step with the rest of the media outlets, by not doing any real reporting.
    The blogs have slowing been taking over and the citizen reporters (bloggers) for most part are doing a better job than big media.
    As I stated at the start, this is just my own opinion.

  8. I also have made comments that would have gotten me in trouble at work. For that reason, anonymity is a good thing. It doesn’t however excused crudeness or lack of courtesy. The Editor is wise to check the facts carefully.

  9. Horse puckey! It is not the Guardian’s “job” to “check the facts carefully”! What he has “chosen” to do is to supply an avenue to bring this crap to the light of day. It is no secret that all the traditional media reads this forum regularly. With as many charges as have been made, the only question is why haven’t the traditional media done the job they are paid to do? That being to ferret out the truth. My question is why does the Guardian “scoop” the “professionals” with such regularity?

  10. Mike Murphy
    Feb 28, 2009, 2:49 pm

    The continuing evisceration of the Fourth Estate coupled with increasing voter apathy and recalcitrant – even belligerent – governance does not bode well for us as a community or a nation.

    And all this talk about “forcing” people to reveal their true identities is moot.

    We’ll all just move our cyber rags to offshore servers outside the reach of the indigenous Bonaparte’

  11. Tom Anderson
    Feb 28, 2009, 5:23 pm

    The popular corporate media has one HUGE problem. It has a conflict of interest in that it is owned by rich people and is beholden to its advertising dollars spent by business. Those same business interests also control our government.

    The corporate media writes wonderful stories about rafting, professional sports, weather, or any topic not related to business interests or government.

    When it comes to seeking truthful, useful economic, or government information, one needs to avoid the corporate media like the plague.

  12. Looked to me like the info was pretty well founded. And if there was opinion mixed it was pretty clearly opinion.
    Bear in mind that people who put themselves in public positions put themselves up for public criticism.
    As long as that criticism is based on things the public person is doing in his or her public position, that opinion is not libelous, according to about a million and half court cases.
    If one digresses from the public activity to strictly personal matters (Saying you think the mayor or governor or whoever is incompetent, wasting taxpayers’ money, preventing meaningful legislation from being enacted, that’s fine. But if you say he is sleeping with his wife’s boyfriend, you’d damn well be able to prove it and to prove that this effects his handling of the public job, and even then you’re likely to get your tail in a wringer.)
    Opinion about a non-public figure gets dicey; if I want to say Frazier allows stupid comments on his site, that’s fine. If i want to say he beats up drunks in the alley, and steals their shoes, he’ll beat the hell out of me — both in court and in the alley.
    So lighten up, complainer — this blog serves a very serious good purpose.
    As for anonymous sources the big rags say they don’t use: If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen “a source close to the president” or an official “who requested his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak to the media” or some other long phrase meaning anonymous, I could buy dinner and drinks for everyone who ever responds to this site and have enough left over to … oh, I dunno, by New Plymouth or something.

  13. Jon Q Publique
    Mar 1, 2009, 11:53 am

    It’s unfortunate that one reader (Sara) of the recent Raleigh Durham, NC transit center story (https://boiseguardian.com/2009/02/24/durham-nc-has-new-transit-center/) felt comments by another reader (Suzy Smyth) lacked credibility because Suzy didn’t use his/her real name.

    In this day and age I would suggest anonymity is both good and necessary. It allows people to express their opinions more freely and with less fear of retribution.

    Anonymity can be a good thing but it also can lead to writing nasty or untrue things. It also can be used by organizations pushing their own agendas. Luckily for us, the Guardian is astute enough to recognize what might be true facts from nasty fiction.

    I find it interesting that Sara chides the Suzy for not using his/her real name but then Sara does not disclose her last name when writing her response. Unless you happened to notice the hyperlink on Sara’s name you have no idea who Sara might be. It appears from the hyperlink on Sara’s name that Sara may be an elected public official – ACHD Commissioner, and ValleyRide Board member, Sara Baker. But unless Sara confirms or denies that linkage we’ll never know because Sara didn’t use her full name. But she can complain of others not using their real names.

    If Sara is an elected public official, and that still is in question, is she saying that she will only accept public input and comment if it is in the proper format and expressed in a factual and non – emotional way?

    Hopefully Suzy will come to a public meeting, express her concerns, and reveal his/her true identity. But will she really be heard? The recent joint ACHD – Boise City meeting certainly welcomed public input didn’t it? Oh, sorry, that’s right, the public was told they could comment and then there “wasn’t time” to hear public comment. So much for serious consideration of public input.

    And that denial of public input is another reason why forums like the Boise Guardian are so important. They allow people to express their opinions in a free and open manner while allowing the writer the freedom to reveal their true identity or not.

    There have been a number of stories by the local mainstream media over the years noting that they have been denied access, or had a more difficult time getting access, to new stories after they had reported stories which those in power construed as “negative”. Loss of possible future advertising revenue is another way retribution can be had on the mainstream media. People who use their real names here, and elsewhere, are always at risk of job loss or some other form of retribution if the “other party” disagrees with their views.

    So “Sara” please give us your last name or stop criticizing those who write anonymously.

  14. I don’t get why some folks have a problem with anonymity especially in the post 9/11 era. Under the Bush Patriot Act, your opinion could be an excuse to label you as a potential terrorist when you thought you had rights. Those who have a problem with it might as well support dumping democracy. Last I heard voting was anonymous. In Idaho, a person could get in a heap of trouble if you were identified as a LIBERAL. It’s too bad more Guardian readers don’t participate. I guess it’s hard enough to get someone to vote.

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