Reince Priebus, the Chief of Staff under the Trump White House, is demanding that journalists and news outlets break with their traditional stance of protecting anonymous sources and to give up their names.
In an interview on Face the Nation on Sunday, Reince Priebus the Chief of Staff who has reportedly been working to reorganize a “chaotic” White House, was asked by John Dickerson if the news media was “the enemy,” as President Donald Trump had said during a press conference last week – and also tweeted out later, that the news media was the “enemy of the American people.” The following quote is from the original CBS News article, the same network that airs Face The Nation.
“I think that the media should stop with this unnamed source stuff. Put names on a piece of paper and print it. If people aren’t willing to put their name next to a quote, then the quote shouldn’t be listed.”
News media outlets and journalism, in general, is considered “journalism” when the journalist goes the distance to get a story, which includes getting the information from sources who wish to remain anonymous.
Reince Priebus weighs in on Trump comments calling press "the enemy" https://t.co/kWjrjuouJT
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) February 19, 2017
Until he became the White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus has not questioned journalism as aggressively as he does now. When in an interview, he is often seen taking a more combative stance against negative news reports about the Trump administration.
One of the news outlets under attack is The New York Times which published an article just last week about the protection of anonymous sources and at a certain point, explains why it’s necessary.
“This is what journalism should be — enterprising, essential and intent on grasping what’s well beyond reach. Not just storifying early-dawn tweets from the president or wailing from the press secretary’s podium, but taking seriously the public service function of the media.”
As Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus should understand the difference between making an effort and what is effortless. Given the differences in how combative he is now and how non-combative Reince Priebus was before becoming Chief of Staff, there should be no doubt that he does.
The article also recalls one that they published about a chaotic White House where they point out how and where they could have provided more attribution, without giving up anonymous sources.
It should be noted that Reince Priebus’ demand for names of those sources is under the guise that it will give the news reports more reasons to be considered factual. But this isn’t the reason why the anonymity of sources are protected.
The New York Times states that those who are requesting to remain anonymous do so for fear that the people or organizations they are revealing information on will retaliate.
Imagine that the Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, has the name of that source because it’s published in the New York Times? One can’t assume that it’s going to be business as usual. They will more than likely remove that person to make sure they no longer “leak” out information.
In this case, it only makes sense that sources will continue to want to remain anonymous because of what happened to their colleague. In many cases, major stories break because of who the source is as it’s been the case that sometimes the source is from the upper level.
The Times points to an update to their process of protecting their sources a few years ago when they slipped up.
They say that the best they can do is a better job with informing their readers of attribution which they often and vigorously do. But Reince Priebus is the Chief of Staff for the White House who has been given more control to streamline things and is, therefore, the worst person to give up those sources too publicly or directly.
[Featured Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]