As someone who has been very critical of the press for Sources Say, no, really, 'tis true, here's my putting out actual ideas to help as opposed to my core competencies of whining and mockery. A thread.
For journalists: One - stop using Sources Say as the default. The argument that unnamed sources must be used because otherwise the only information we would get from government agencies is via glowing press releases has some merit. No entity is going to willingly admit fault.
The problem is that this conflates confidential sources who provide information which the reporter uses to discover information which is on record with anonymous Sources Say. It appears that press releases are now replaced by anonymous sources saying things. It's equally invalid.
Oh no the government will just say happy things without any check! Well, the Sources Say are saying things that it is impossible for me to check since I don't know who the source is or have any other way of checking veracity. It's just another press release.
I'm not sure when the switch was, and I'm far too lazy to try to quantify, but it does seem that there is a dramatic rise in Sources Say stories. What's the percentage of block buster stories that have on record sources and that link to original documents? Ten? Five?
Sources Say has turned from rarely and sparingly used for when a story is important and cannot be broken any other way into the default. It destroys the notion that the use of such sources is done sparingly and only when there's no other choice. Stop using that crutch. Do work.
Two - no, people reading/listening to you say Sources Say are not under any obligation to trust you. I cannot believe I have to say this but it is clear I do. No, you are not entitled to be trusted implicitly that the sources even exist, let alone that they say what you claim.
Sources are not unknown, we know who they are! Uh huh. And I should trust you because why again? No, seriously, why should I trust you? A byline doesn't change gossip mongering into God's Own Truth. I know many in the press think it does but it doesn't.
This person told me that and you have to believe me because I say so is really not the persuasive position that journalists think it is. It takes time and diligence to develop a reputation for honesty and fair dealing. Sources Say tries to short cut all of that.
Getting horribly offended at the notion that someone doesn't just fall at your feet and believe you tends to lead people to believe that you shouldn't be trusted, what with the WELL, I NEVER of it. You want to be trusted? Be trustworthy. And that starts by not being a gossip.
Three - accept that the press has engaged in egregious conduct for decades and that conduct has tarred everyone. Why would anyone make up sources shrieks the journalist. Here comes the list in reply says everyone else. That there is a list is telling in and of itself.
The Rolling Stone UVA rape hoax is the most recent case where far too many journalists appear to not comprehend at all the massive toll on credibility for the entire profession. At first, those who said hold up this doesn't make sense were called rape apologists.
Then, when it became apparent that minor details, such as if Haven Monahan even exists, were never confirmed, there was a rush of even if this story isn't true it speaks to a greater truth. Truthiness and all that rot. You can insert your preferred fake story here.
People do not trust reporters because very high profile pieces have turned out to be lies, from top to bottom. Add in the modern practice of massively updating a story to change nearly all the details without acknowledging that directly and you have well earned scorn.
Stop saying people will never lie. They do. They have. They will in the future. Clutching pearls about how dare such accusations of outright fraud be made only serves to make the pearl clutcher look insane. There is ample evidence that people lie. Understand that.
Four - stop treating Dan Rather as if he is some Grand Old Man of Integrity. That I even have to type this proves my point nearly entirely. I get that many journalists were about 10 years old when the unpleasantness occurred but still. Stop it. You look like idiots.
Five - start exposing your Sources Say when they turn out to be lying to you. I've noticed the old dodge of why, if a source burns us, we'll out the source is no longer really being said. Gee, could it be because that never happens and people caught onto the scam?
Six - realize this has nothing to do with Trump. I get that Trump is Orange Man Bad and Year Zero and all that other lunacy. But, distrust of the media started well before Trump. Ginny Carroll wore the Yeah I'm in the Media Screw You button to the 1992 Republican convention.
Primary Colors was published in 1996. October Surprise was from 1980. Do you really think the problems with people viewing the press as charlatans who make stuff up started with Trump? Bless your Year Zero hearts into the center of the sun. It's not about Trump. Not at all.
Now comes the shin kicking of media consumers. After all, if the media wasn't being consumed, it wouldn't be written, now would it? Keeping Up With the Kardashians was on for 20 seasons because people watched it. The media is writing to a willing audience. So change that.
One - stop reading a story the moment that Sources Say is used. And I mean stop right then and close out the tab. Depending on the metrics used, a story doesn't count as being read until it's read a certain ways down. Don't give the hit. Stop immediately. Starve the data.
Two - stop rewteeting/sharing/posting a story that is based on Sources Say. That hot viral story that omg is so outrageous did you see this! Yeah, if it's Sources Say, don't spread it. If we really and truly want this to stop, then stop sharing it. Starve the data.
Three - if a story has Sources Saying something that affirms everything you believe, think it's a lie even twice as hard. Sources Say is gossipy crap even more so when the gossip says what you want to hear. Be ten times as hard on stories from your side. Starve the data.
Four - reward stories that cite actual sources. If there's a story out there with named sources and links to original documents, click it. Read it. Share it. It's not enough to punish the bad behavior, the good behavior must be rewarded. Drive up engagement of cited works.
Five - if you find an outlet/writer who is consistently accurate and who does not use, or uses rarely, Sources Say, consider putting money where your click is. People write these stories because they sell. Buy better stories. Leverage market forces. Positive reinforcement works.

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