Hot source: How journalists should handle sources and how some actually do...
Burning a source should mean you never work again. You know who you are.
|Mic Wright||Sep 8, 2020||3||2|
Who’s your source? ShallowC*nt?
I had a fun day yesterday. Fun that is if you’re the sort of person that considers a tax audit or a smear test to be ‘fun’. Journalists for my former alma mater, the increasingly disgusting Daily Telegraph decided to question both my professional ethics and my mental health in a shit sandwich of such bizarre preparation it could have been the work of a scatologically-minded Heston Blumenthal.
Do I think it’s appropriate for a reporter and The Daily Telegraph’s Science Editor, a woman not unknown to the attention of the regulator IPSO for her wild-and-free attitude to facts, to baselessly attack an independent journalist? Well… let’s just say I wasn’t thrilled and, as you might expect, I expressed that unthrilledness.
The meat of their objections — thin gristle if we’re honest — was that I had asked on Twitter if anyone could stand up claims that the police had doxxed (revealed the names, addresses, and other Personally Identifiable Information) of protestors involved in the Extinction Rebellion (XR) action against the printworks and, furthermore, whether that information had been leaked to The Daily Telegraph.
Attempting to stand up (journalese for ‘confirm’) such tips is standard practice. As is assuring anyone who comes forward to help you with such information that they can speak anonymously for their protection and the protection of others. There is nothing unusual about this. But for committing this basic act of journalism, I was called ‘a crank’ by the Science Editor and accused of referring to “the voices in [my] head” by the reporter. I had full grounds to complain to The Daily Telegraph’s ultimate editor, but I am a big boy and journalism jobs are thin on the ground.
Since I published another newsletter edition late last night, I’m keeping this one short, so I will end with this key fact about journalistic practice:
Burning a source — that is revealing their identity to the public or to the authorities — is the mortal sin of journalism.
It is your job as a journalist to protect those who come to you with information and to do so even at the detriment of your own liberty.
If I were ever compelled to name a source with the threat of imprisonment, I would not reveal the source’s name. I would fight the case. That is the bargain journalists sign up for. Anyone who burns a source — Is*COUGH*a*COUGH*bel *COUGH COUGH* Oak*COUGH*shott — should not be welcome to work in journalism again.
Thanks for your time. Thanks for signing up to the newsletter. And thanks for the solidarity. Good morning to you all. And absolutely no good morning to certain Daily Telegraph journalists. I hope your muesli tastes like cat litter.