Getting to the source

By Alexis Frayton, J Camp Live! staff

The headlines at the supermarket rack scream at the shopper: “Angelina tells Brad: ‘I’m Leaving you and the kids!’” or “Lindsay Lohan, Back on Drugs!” Yet it only takes weeks, if not days, for those claims to be refuted and proven untrue.

The journalist’s role is to report accurate information and make sure that the news they are reporting comes from reliable sources. However, many writers at celebrity news magazines get much of their dubious information from the friends of celebrities or other “inside informants.”

One of the great debates among journalists is whether or not to release the names of sources. One side argues that by giving the name of a source, the source gains integrity because there is a tangible person connected to facts. The source is no longer veiled by a cloak of invisibility and is now forced to stand behind their statements.

“The best thing is to have a source on the record so that the reader can judge the integrity [of the source],” said Brian Ross, the News Chief Investigative Correspondent for ABC.

Other journalists believe that releasing the name of a source makes them vulnerable to those who may be negatively affected by their statements. The latter side is an argument for sources involved in more important issues, including political scandals dealing with corruption where their testimony could put them at odds with the law.

But how about anonymous sources giving up information from such less weighty matters as celebrity pregnancies or divorces? Cynthia Wang, assistant editor for People magazine, believes some risk is still involved.

“In many cases, sources able to provide information on celebrities depend on them for their livelihood,” said Wang. “That would explain why so many are willing to talk about a subject but not want to be identified by name.”

Wang added that “public information databases and entertainment union records” are used to check up on sources. A story from In Touch magazine could have used this added scrutiny. The article claimed that musician John Mayer was hitting on another woman, Chaton Anderson, while dating Jennifer Aniston. Anderson considered legal action against the magazine because the story was “completely untrue.”

The story was completely based on information from an anonymous friend of Chaton. Once all this is considered one has to wonder if a magazines eagerness to get a breaking celebrity story overshadows their duty to conduct a proper background check on sources that like to remain anonymous.

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