Friday, November 12, 2004

Let's talk ethics

Slate comments on a memorandum concerning the current discussion of sources for news stories sent to the New York Times Staff by the Assistant Managing Editor Allan M. Siegal. The memorandum informs the Times staff that there is a new committee in place to find answers to problems linked with anonymous sources. In the last year and a half, The Times has deepened and widened its efforts to deserve readers' trust. He says, "Most notably, we have appointed a public editor and given serious consideration to his questions and advice; we have required that every unidentified source quoted in the paper be known by name to at least one editor; we have tried to describe our sources and their motives more candidly and usefully. We'd like to believe we have reduced our dependence on anonymous sources; certainly we have begun trying and intend to push ahead." Siegal suggests that issues of plagiarism, fact-checking and reliability of sources. Reacting to recent criticism he suggests: "Should we be responding systematically to outside critics who attack our believability for political or commercial reasons of their own? What is an effective vehicle for doing this? A column by the editor or editors on how we work?" Siegal further suggests that articles attributed to anonymous sources should be eliminated from the newspaper if possible.

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