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BURNED BY ANONYMOUS TIPSTERS

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By thisistwitchy  •  March 30, 2005 05:07 AM

Josh Claybourn of In the Agora retracts the post that I criticized on Saturday morning:

Late Friday evening I posted the accusations of four supposed Senate staffers who claimed a Democratic aide had distributed the “GOP” talking points memo. I now have reason to believe that in unraveling a hoax I was hoaxed myself. I haven’t been able to confirm a Sen. Reid aide was the source and barring more conclusive evidence I have removed the accused’s name from the original post out of fairness and accuracy. Those who made the accusations are nowhere to be found. Sen. Reid’s office labels the accusation “completely ridiculous” and Sen. Santorum’s office would not officially confirm or deny it, saying the investigation was “up to you, the bloggers, and the media.”

I’m disturbed and upset, both with those who anonymously made the accusation and myself for posting it without more judicious restraint….

In an e-mail, Claybourn informed me that he does not know the names of any of his four sources (the so-called Republican staffers). I think Claybourn should have disclosed that in his original post. For obvious reasons, claims made by a completely anonymous source must be regarded as far less reliable than those made by a source who is willing to disclose his or her identity to a reporter or blogger.

I often use sources who don’t want their names published, but I never publish information provided by anonymous tipsters unless I can independently verify the information.

Claybourn was careless. He had better hope that the Reid aide he accused of wrongdoing doesn’t sue him for libel.

But Claybourn is not the only one guilty of sloppy reporting on the Schiavo memo. See here, here, and here.

At least Claybourn has run a retraction and apology. As he points out, “that is much more than ABC or the Washington Post can say.”

A final thought: in responding to my critique, Claybourn wrote on Saturday morning that he “called the staffers to press them for names.” If Claybourn really believes he has been hoaxed, there is nothing preventing him from publishing his sources’ phone numbers.

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