James Rainey appears to have violated his newspaper’s policy on anonymous sources in his hit piece on Jill Stewart. The policy — which is violated whenever the editors feel like violating it — reads in relevant part:
When we use anonymous sources, it should be to convey important information to our readers. We should not use such sources to publish material that is trivial, obvious or self-serving.
Sources should never be permitted to use the shield of anonymity to voice speculation or to make ad hominem attacks.
Hmmm. Are anonymous ad feminem attacks OK?
Oh, I guess you could strain to argue that it wasn’t ad hominem when James Rainey quoted an anonymous source saying that Stewart pushes for “gotcha, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey journalism.” Why, it’s not an attack on her, the tut-tutting response would go, it’s an attack on her journalism.
Fine. But there is no question that this portrait of Stewart is self-serving for Rainey, whose methodology of quoting anonymous sources was questioned by Stewart’s L.A. Weekly. If Rainey can successfully portray Stewart-edited pieces as “gotcha” journalism, that assessment dilutes the impact of an article critical of some of Rainey’s practices.
I’d call that self-serving. And thus a violation of the paper’s policy on anonymous sources.
Worse, Rainey failed to disclose to readers that he had an ulterior motive to slam Stewart and the Weekly.
P.S. Stewart has used anonymous sources to slam the L.A. Times. I have used anonymous sources in various ways, probably including slamming the L.A. Times. Sometimes anonymous sources are useful, and the mere fact of their use is not an automatic problem.
But if you’re using them to serve a secret and personal agenda — that’s a problem. And that’s what we seem to have here.
As with my earlier posts, I am writing Rainey for his reaction. That’s more of a courtesy than he gave to Stewart.