The New York Times’ terrible anonymous sourcing

This is what is wrong with anonymous sourcing. It can be great for sensitive stories in which going on the record would justify someone’s career and when there is no other way to get the information. But this work, by Gerry Mullany and Scott Shane at The New York Times, is just fancily stated hearsay. In a piece about the ongoing Edward Snowden case, they add this:

For the past week, Mr. Snowden, 30, appears to have been staying in an apartment in Hong Kong’s Western District that is controlled by the Hong Kong government’s security branch, according to a person who has followed the case and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Emphasis mine. That could be virtually anyone who watches the news and called the New York Times to spout off. Presumably, the Times has reason to believe this source, and there’s a good chance they’re right. But the paper is asking for a lot of trust from its readers if they want us to believe that, and if they turn out wrong they’ve gone out on a limb for very little substance.

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