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Gordon of 'NYT,' Criticized for Using Unnamed Sources on Iran Story, Returns With More of Same

Editor & Publisher | February 16, 2007  
Greg Mitchell

 

If you wrote an extremely high-profile article for the most influential newspaper in the land that subsequently was widely criticized for its utter reliance on anonymous sources, would you produce a followup five days later, also based on unnamed sources?

That's what Michael R. Gordon did today in The New York Times.

On Saturday, he had written a much-disputed front-page story on weapons from Iran now being used to kill Americans in Iraq, under the direction or at least with the knowledge of top Iranian leaders. Even Gen. Peter Pace and then President Bush backed away from the certainty about Iranian leaders.

Gordon opened his story today with this: “One of the questions posed by skeptics about the Bush administration assertions about Iran's meddling in Iraq is why the charges are coming to light only now, when American officials say the shipment of lethal weapons from Iran to Shiite militias was first detected several years ago.”

Gordon then aimed to quiet the skeptics, citing only the following sources: “American officials”…. “one military official”…”military officials” …”American officials”…”American military officials.”

The only name in the story was Gen. William Caldwell, the military spokesman, but he merely explained why the claims emerged at all last weekend.

Gordon does not make any effort to explain why his sources can't be named. The Times policy on sourcing states the "principle of identifying our sources by name and title or, when that is not possible, explaining why we consider them authoritative, why they are speaking to us and why they have demanded confidentiality."

In September 2002, Gordon co-authored with Judith Miller the single most influential (and inaccurate) story of all the WMD missteps in the run-up to the Iraq invasion: the infamous “aluminum tubes/mushroom cloud” epic from September 2002. It, too, was based on unnamed sources.

 

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