As a way in to this issue, the WP is talking about the cockamamie excuses that sources have given for refusing to allow publication of their name or title. Yet these anonymi blather on about a subject, and are treated by the media as reliable sources.
But let’s face it: if they are speaking at odds with official policy, they could be canned for talking–so why would they? Very few would. If they are providing the official line, why not give their name? So you can’t hold them to it when it turns out to be false?
From the Post:
… Back in its pre-“Deep Throat” days, The Post tried an experiment. Faced with the Nixon administration’s manipulative use of off-the-record sourcing, then-executive editor Benjamin C. Bradlee announced a no-more-unnamed-sources policy, banning any story based on one, according to Ben Bagdikian, at the time an assistant managing editor at the paper.
As a result, Bagdikian wrote, “The Post’s competitors, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, published important news stories that The Post did not have. The paper’s readers were deprived of significant information. For a fierce competitor like Bradlee, that was intolerable.”
And so the experiment was dropped — after two days.