Who Said That?  | American Journalism Review
From AJR,   August/September 2003

Who Said That?   

By Jill Rosen
Jill Rosen is AJR's assistant managing editor     

Related reading:
   » Important if True
   » Going Nameless
   » One Paper's Policy

For an industry supposedly trying to cut back on anonymous sources, we've apparently got a ways to go. Not that it's scientific, but a Lexis-Nexis check of news outlets in the first 10 days of June shows nebulous "officials" are getting more than a little ink. Here's how many times certain anonymity catchphrases appeared during that period as well as a few examples of how reporters categorized their nameless sources:

Phrase: "Who requested anonymity"
Appearances: 48
Who said it: "High level staffers" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel); "A hospital worker" (Boston Globe); "Another council member" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer).

Phrase: "Who declined to give his name"
Appearances: 32
Who said it: "One delivery man" (Washington Post); "a Carpet Mart shopper" (Pennsylvania's Harrisburg Patriot-News); "a jeweler out on the street" (New York Times).

Phrase: "Sources close to"
Appearances: 155
Who said it: Sources close to the ACC expansion (Charlotte Observer); a source close to Janeane Garofalo (New York Post).

Phrase: "Sources say"
Appearances: 140
Who said it: "A diplomatic source" (Christian Science Monitor); an "inside" source at Ricky Martin's record label who's also referred to as "our snitch" (New York's Daily News); "sources close to the family" (Washington's Tacoma News Tribune).