Spinonymous sources: Newsweek quoted unnamed "congressional aide" praising Bush's "second wind"

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

An article for the June 26 edition of Newsweek on President Bush's "fresh strategy to build bipartisan support for the new Iraqi cabinet" quoted an anonymous "congressional aide" who attended a picnic at the White House saying: "It was like they'd gotten a second wind, the president especially. ... I haven't seen them that relaxed in a long, long time." Newsweek correspondents Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey wrote their source "declined to be named when talking about a private event," but this explanation appears not to meet the magazine's guidelines for anonymous sourcing.

In an article for the June 26 edition of Newsweek on President Bush's "fresh strategy to build bipartisan support for the new Iraqi cabinet," senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe and White House correspondent Holly Bailey quoted an anonymous "congressional aide" who attended a picnic at the White House saying: "It was like they'd gotten a second wind, the president especially. ... I haven't seen them that relaxed in a long, long time." According to Wolffe and Bailey, their source "declined to be named when talking about a private event."

As Media Matters for America has noted, Newsweek's guidelines for anonymous sourcing state that "the burden of proof should lie with the reporters and their editors to show why a promise of anonymity serves the reader," and that Newsweek must "help the reader understand the nature of a confidential source's access to information and his or her reasons for demanding anonymity." Wolffe and Bailey simply repeated the source's reason for requesting anonymity. They failed to explain why this "congressional aide" -- they didn't even identify the aide's party -- deserved anonymity for speaking positively of the president, or how that anonymity served the reader. As Media Matters previously noted, Wolffe and Bailey, in a March 20 article, granted anonymity to a Bush aide defending the president's handling of the Dubai Ports World fiasco without explaining their reasons for allowing the aide to remain unnamed.

From Wolffe and Bailey's article in the June 26 edition of Newsweek:

The upbeat mood in the White House was not reflected in the polls: most showed only small shifts in Bush's approval. Still, lawmakers were struck by the change in atmosphere when they joined Bush for a Texas-themed picnic at the White House. "It was like they'd gotten a second wind, the president especially," said one congressional aide, who declined to be named when talking about a private event. "I haven't seen them that relaxed in a long, long time."

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