Twice over the past two weeks, New York Times reporters got taken for long rides by anonymous sources who ultimately dropped them off at the corner of Mortified and Peeved.
The first embarrassing trip for the Times came on May 31, as the paper alleged in a Page One story that a federal insider trading investigation was “examining” golfer Phil Mickelson’s “well-timed trades” in Clorox stock, according to “people briefed on the investigation.” On June 11, the Times rowed the story back — citing anonymous sources again, namely “four people briefed on the matter” — calling the original story about Mickelson’s role “overstated.” Mickelson did not, the paper reported, trade shares of Clorox.
Heads bowed, the new Times article explained the error: “The overstated scope of the investigation came from information provided to the Times by other people briefed on the matter who have since acknowledged making a mistake.”
Gotta love the wording. The people briefed made a mistake, not the Times for relying on anonymous sources.
The Times got its second joyride in a June 3 Page One story about Bowe Bergdahl. A “former senior military officer briefed on the investigation into the private’s disappearance” claimed that before Bergdahl fled his unit on June 30, 2009, he left a note in his tent expressing his disillusionment with the Army and the American mission in Afghanistan, and stated that he was leaving to start a new life. This marked Bergdahl as a deserter for many in the press.