Patterico's Pontifications

6/20/2009

Rainey Violated Policy on Anonymous Sources

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 10:12 am

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.

10 Responses to “Rainey Violated Policy on Anonymous Sources”

  1. I’m glad you wrote about this. Rainey is another Rutten clone, and Jill Stewart is leagues ahead of him in reporting.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  2. Rainey, Rutten, Cooper, and Hitzsockpuppet are quite the formidible bunch.

    JD (f086e6)

  3. Anonymous sources are used to push a writer’s thesis when no one else is willing to stick their neck out, i.e. a veiled attempt at CYA.

    Alta Bob (9f2c33)

  4. You think it is possible that he did an asspull with that quote, thus the anonymous? Or, was it Rutten or Cooper?

    JD (f086e6)

  5. I saw this article and I thought “James Rainey” was code for “Patterico” and “Weekly” was code for “Times.”

    Thus, the author would be Patterico and the following quotes would be as follows:

    “But as it has with several stories in recent times, the [TIMES] didn’t let the facts speak for themselves . . . .”

    “Instead, it the TIMES] employed more semantic spin than Kobe Bryant puts on a jump shot, along with a prosecutorial methodology that proved much more about the declining quality of our city’s dominant . . . newspaper than it did about . . . .

    “[T]he [TIMES] has fallen far from the days it was required reading for those in the know about the city.”

    ” . . . the piece uncritically accepted the assertion . . .”

    Ira (28a423)

  6. Policies appear to be subjective at the LAT. When it serves their purposes, they are enforced. When it doesn’t, it’s anything goes.

    This was clearly brought home when we witnessed the hideous comments permitted to be posted re Tony Snow’s death. When their own policy states the following are unacceptable, and yet that very same entity intentionally approves comments containing what is supposedly prohibited, one can assume any LAT policy is subject to change. That they violate their own policies is nothing new.

    * contains vulgar, profane, abusive, racist or hateful language or expressions, epithets or slurs, text, photographs or illustrations in poor taste, inflammatory attacks of a personal, racial or religious nature.

    * is defamatory, threatening, disparaging, grossly inflammatory, false, misleading, fraudulent, inaccurate, unfair, contains gross exaggeration or unsubstantiated claims, violates the privacy rights of any third party, is unreasonably harmful or offensive to any individual or community.

    Dana (8d88ef)

  7. We also use anonymous sources at LA Weekly, but at a far lower frequency than the explosion in usage we’ve seen at the Times. The Times‘ post-Jason Blair policy, if I recall, was that blind quotes would be used very rarely and the LA Times writer was required to justify in print why it was necessary.

    I don’t see that part of the policy in the segment that Patterico has highlighted. If the policy still exists, wow, what a loophole that has been.

    I say this because of how often Times writers say in print that they are using an anonymous source because “they were not authorized to speak.” No kidding! God, we thought the sources were leaking to the newspaper because somebody gave them permission to do so.

    Jill Stewart (b3afc3)

  8. The Times has a history of not disclosing conflicts of interests and using anonymous sources when it suits an agenda. Believe me, I saw it first-hand with the Pellicano coverage. Not surprised that James Rainey did not disclose that L.A. Weekly had previously taken him to task.

    Jill, keep doing what you’re doing. Good journalism is far and few between these days. Patrick, thanks for shining a light on this.

    Anita Busch (fc416d)

  9. Full Disclosure: I used anonymous sources in an article I wrote for Jill Stewart. She was concerned until I disclosed to her the sources, their reason for requiring anonymity and that this same information would be coming out in court within weeks of our article’s publication. I find working with Jill isn’t any different from working with my other gifted and fair former editors Alan Mittlestaedt, Dean Kuipers and Steve Appleford at CityBeat. It’s just a total pleasure to write for Jill. For real Jill has an agenda. It’s called “news!”

    I welcome Marc Cooper to come back now and say my work is “laughable” too.

    That’s fine, and he’s entitled to his opinion (though maybe not an entire Times hatchet piece solely focused on his opinion, but I’d like to ask Marc Cooper how long he’s going to fall back on that old “Jill vs. Alan” drama while failing to disclose that Jill actually hired Alan back at the LA Weekly?

    Annette Stark (ac69ee)

  10. [...] with absolute, scowling seriousness. No matter how much ridiculous writing he generates or how many ethical pickles he gets himself into, Rainey is never less than 110 percent convinced of his own [...]

    Jim Rainey Brings the (Always Unintentional) Laughter - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine (5ad1ed)


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