In the normal practice of journalism, it’s considered to be the job of a newspaper’s own reporters, not anonymous government officials, to report on newsworthy political revelations, especially those with momentous implications. The New York Times decided on a different approach last week, when it was told by a Trump administration official that a cabal of senior staff was secretly working to thwart the president. Instead of having its own reporters write the story, it broke with precedent and outsourced the story to an anonymous government official—the very one making the allegation—on its editorial page. If the paper had elected to use news reporters, rather than the source, to write it, here’s how it might have looked as a proposed front page:
ANTI-TRUMP CABAL THWARTS PRESIDENT
By the Washington Bureau of the New York Times
A cabal of senior officials in President Donald Trump’s administration is working to “frustrate” parts of his agenda, according to a current senior official. He or she alleges that many senior officials have “vowed” to thwart actions by the president that are not consistent with their own values. He or she further claimed there were “whispers” in the cabinet of a concerted effort to remove President Trump from office by invoking the impairment clause of the 25th Amendment. Such a move, if it went beyond the whispering stage, would require not only the approval of Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of senior cabinet members but also two-thirds of the members of both the House and Senate.
The source, while citing demeaning views of Trump from other unnamed senior officials, declined to say how many officials had actually taken this vow of resistance, or when and how they had taken this vow. He or she also did not disclose such information as where this up-to-now secret group meets, how its members communicate, and how it preserves its secrecy. Though claiming that the cabal had “many” members, he or she did not specify in which of the 300-odd agencies of the government they worked or whether any members had jobs in the West Wing of the White House, the State Department, the CIA, or the Department of Justice. He or she also did not supply any names of any members.
This envelope of secrecy prevented any independent corroboration, other than by the source, of the existence of the cabal. The Times agreed to grant the source full anonymity since, if his or her name were revealed, it might jeopardize his or her job and position in the cabal.