Daniel Okrent is just a mighty, mighty force for good these days as ombuddy at the NY Times (and that’s coming from someone still grieving her fanatasy-league team — the man invented Rotisserie, you understand). He’s got a gorgeous essay in the Times today talking about attributions and how reporters are encouraged these days to quote — but not identify — “experts” in their work, whilst not giving (overtly anyway) their own opinions. It’s a grand piece of writing and closes with a passage that’s worth committing to memory:

“One reason I read a paper with ambitions like The Times’s is because I want the expertise of its writers to lead me through complex matters. The contrary argument holds that, absent attribution, the writer is only providing an opinion, but attribution to unnamed experts is no attribution at all. When a writer offers an interpretation in his own voice, he’s putting his own reputation behind it. Writers (and newspapers) who are often wrong may soon lose their reputations. But writers (and newspapers) too timid or too disingenuous to assert what they know to be true may not deserve those reputations in the first place.”

(As ever, thanks RS for the good eyes — one attribution I never hesitate to make!)


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