Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Another Virtue of Anonymity

The efforts of the Associated Press to provide "up-to-the-minute" coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting have revealed another virtue of "well-maintained anonymity." The phrase "condition of anonymity" appears three times, in conjunction with three separate interviews, in the story Adam Geller filed at 10:09 AM EDT. What this means is that the content of these three interviews had not yet been vetted for "official announcement." Thus, Associated Press is saying (through Geller), "We know you want to have the most recent information available, but not all of that most recent information has been properly validated. However, rather than withhold it from you, we shall 'flag' it, letting you know when a particular source may be questionable." This seems like a good way for Associated Press to offer itself as an information source that tries to be as timely as the blogosphere but imposes a stronger editorial standard of validity testing. Since one of the Morning Edition reporters commented on the heavy use of the blogosphere for information regarding this particular tragedy, I, for one, endorse the Associated Press policy in the strongest of terms. There is going to be a lot of "noise interfering with the signal" surrounding this story; and we all need at least one source we can rely on to "filter out the noise."

Reflecting on my recent attacks on how Reuters seems to be reporting the news these days, I would like to add that Geller was assisted in preparing his report by "Associated Press Writers Justin Pope in Blacksburg and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington." (Yes, that is quoted from the bottom of the story.) I do not know if the Blacksburg byline indicates that Geller is also "on the ground;" but it does seem that Associated Press is not trying to cover this story using the Reuters outsourcing model, which is another count in their favor!

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