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Opening Arguments

That watchdog won't hunt

Much of the journalistic community is in high "told you so" mode at the news that the Cleveland Plain Dealer has decided to sit on two investigative series because they are based on anonymous sources. Claiming to feel the "chilling effects" of the Judith Miller case, the Cleveland editor says the sources would be in trouble (likely of a legal nature) if they were outed. If the paper publishes, it will undoubtedly face the choice of identifying the sources or letting its reporters go to jail. The price isn't worth it, so they won't publish.

Seems like lazy journalism to me. They know something absolutely based on their anonymous sources, but they can't get anything else from anywhere else? They can't use what they have to get enough more so they can leave the anonymous sources out of it? They're not serving their readers by failing to heed the Reporting 101 practice of following up on a good lead.

And where's the moral high ground in claiming to serve the public good by encouraging (or at least benefiting from) sources to break the law?