‘Deep Throat’ Offers Perspective on Anonymous Sources

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In an editorial, the Washington Post comments on the revelation that “Deep Throat,” its anonymous source in the Watergate investigation of President Nixon, was Mark Felt, the No. 2 man at the FBI: “In a small irony, Deep Throat’s unveiling comes as the media and Washington officialdom engage in one of their periodic debates about the use of anonymous sources. We think that both the debate and the newly professed cautions about relying on such sources are healthy.”

Meanwhile, USA Today editorialized: “Watergate gave respectability to anonymous sources. But by using them too freely, the press has made mistakes, reported inaccurate and even fictional stories and lost credibility with the public…Deep Throat’s renewed prominence serves as a reminder of the best use of an anonymous source: as tipster and guide to a story of vital public interest, backed up by plenty of aggressive reporting, supporting documents and judicious editing.” And author David Halberstam told the Los Angeles Times, “Sure, anonymous sources can be abused. But every once in a while they are simply mandatory…for a democracy to work.”

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/31/AR2005053101603.html

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