Apparently several other people contacted the Washington Post ombudsman to complain about the front page story on Rahm Emanuel. He responded in Sunday’s column.
While a lot of folks complained about a “conspiracy” at The Post, Alexander agreed with the contention, as I posted last week, that the story relied too heavily on anonymous sources.
A greater problem, I think, was its heavy reliance on anonymous quotes. At least a dozen people were quoted by name, showing depth of reporting. But there were more than a half dozen others quoted anonymously, comprising more than a quarter of the story’s length. Most supported Emanuel. The story could have stood on its own without them.
Readers properly complain about The Post’s overuse of anonymous sources. They’re often unavoidable, and Horowitz said he granted anonymity only after failing to persuade sources to speak on the record. But assertions offered with impunity erode credibility, especially when politically savvy readers suspect that Emanuel supporters are trying to spin The Post.
He then goes on to say that the paper is using anonymous quotes at a greater rate than it did last year, though his numbers don’t jibe with mine. When I do a search for the term “spoke on conditional of anonymity” I found 118 instances through a LexisNexis. That includes Post stories on sports and all other categories of stories. Alexander claims only 70 such stories. I can’t explain the difference.
But I thank him for writing about it.