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The Breakthrough: How Reporters Really Use Unnamed Sources

The Trump administration has been the focus of remarkable reporting recently — much of it relying on unnamed sources.

The New York Times revealed that members of President Donald Trump’s campaign had been in repeated contact with members of Russian intelligence. The story, which was based on four unnamed sources, landed days after The Washington Post confirmed through nine unnamed sources that National Security Advisor Mike Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Inauguration Day. Flynn had previously denied that, and he resigned days later.

Trump has repeatedly slammed the press, labeling traditional outlets like The New York Times “fake news.” Much of the public sympathizes, and may question the veracity of claims made by sources who aren’t named.

An underground crossing in Moscow, Russia (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

This week on The Breakthrough, we spoke to The New York Times’ Michael Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti, who — along with their colleague Matt Apuzzo — detailed the contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence. They talked to us about how they find anonymous sources, what they do to confirm the information, and whether reporting under these circumstances is really different under the Trump administration.

Listen to this podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher.

Enjoy the podcast and want more? Dive deeper into this week’s episode:

  • Read Apuzzo, Schmidt and Mazzetti’s story in The New York Times.
  • Read a similar story by CNN, which also used unnamed administration to confirm Trump’s campaign had “constant contact” with Russian intelligence.
  • Take a look at a timeline of the fall of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn from The Washington Post.
  • Read New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd’s take on the use of unnamed sources.

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