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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The month of the unnamed scout.

In Journalism 101, they warn you about unnamed sources. The reporter should never use them unless in the direst of circumstances: 1) The public's need to know outweighs other concerns, or 2) The source's life or well-being would be endangered if revealed. It's a rare and grim moment when a journalist must resort to an unnamed source.

Wait: There is an exception...

It's March in sunny Florida, and while your trying to file from some python-filled sinkhole of a press room, you're on the verge of missing Happy Hour, and you need to make a point.

Yesterday, we saw Daily News writer Bill Madden base a column on an unnanmed National League scout. Today, his colleague Mark Feinsand ices his cake with an unknown oracle from the World of Spoken Truth.

“He shouldn’t even be out there,” one major-league scout said of A-Rod. “They should just let him hit. He offers nothing defensively.”

Frankly, this quote shouldn't be out there. Feinsand should just make his point - that A-Rod looks bad in the field, and move on. The unnamed scout offers nothing journalistically. But Feinsand goes back to him (or her) two paragraphs later, assessing Masahiro Tanaka.

“He looks like the guy we saw in the first half last year,” the scout said. “You can’t even tell he was hurt."

WAIT A MINUTE: Stop shaking your head. I'm not going on a bender about journalism ethics - especially since many of the bloggers on IIHIIFIIc use anonymous names. (I'm El Duque, though my real name is Hart Seely, I've been a reporter for more than 30 years, and I am identified on the right.) But beyond all the fair and hurtful criticisms that are laid on sports fan bloggers - don't get me started - we don't use "unnamed scouts" to make our points.

Using an unnamed source is like consulting a Oujah board. What the hell is an "unnamed scout?" It sounds like a buddy of Davey Crockett. Do we assume that because the scout is unnamed, he (or she) is telling the truth? What constitutes a "scout?" Is Brian Cashman, speaking off the record, an unnamed scout? Is the quote accurate? Will the unnamed scout complain, saying he was misquoted?

There is NO reason to believe the unnamed scout... and yet, we do.

Somehow, we are led to think that he (or she) is the ultimate arbiter, the person speaking Truth from the sodium pentothal of anonymity.

This is the month of the unnamed scout. He tells us that A-Rod can't field, and Greg Bird will be great. He says Jose Pirela should play 2B and Esmil Rogers can throw. He says cigarettes are good for you and Soylent Green is NOT people, so go ahead and take a bite.

I don't mean to pick on Feinsand. He's a fine writer and, I think, a decent soul. And it's not easy being a Yankee beat writer in the land of python-filled sinkholes. You must generate daily copy - 15 inch chunks - using rules that were important a long time ago, but that was before Twitter. You don't get to make the rules - except when deciding who not to identify.

This is the month of the unnamed scout. Remember his name.

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