There’s a lot wrong with this.
First, on the part of the FBI, this was a deceitful move that does, at least to some degree, degrade what little integrity journalists still lay claim to. An FBI agent pretended to be a journalist, wrote an article about a suspect citing them as an anonymous source, emailed the article to the suspect to “ensure it was accurate,” and then used spyware to check the suspect’s computer for incriminating evidence when they opened the file. When a story like this gets out, it diminishes the perceived trustworthiness of journalists everywhere.
Now on to the other problem: Journalists being defensive about their anonymous sources. Yeah? Well guys, you should be striving (much harder than you are) to avoid anonymous sources, anyway. Sure, there are instances, especially when it comes to controversial subjects, where you won’t be able to find anyone willing to go on record with their information. But there’s a real risk that comes with relying on anonymous sources—their stories often come chock-full of errors or falsities. Because, well, the source is anonymous. There’s no fallout for them if they lie or fabricate a story, since their real name and reputation were never on the line.
In an age where fact seldom gets in the way of a good story, and just about any shmuck with an Internet connection can publish “news,” the mainstream news sources must get it right. It’s become far too easy (and widely accepted by viewers/readers) for them to focus only on being first with the story or getting the exclusive scoop, rather than putting in the legwork and the time to find a legitimate, verifiable source.
(Featured image courtesy of projects.ocregister.com)