Confidential sources are the Achilles heel of print media.
Part of the reason the general public doesn’t trust/believe/respect newspapers, for instance, is that the general public thinks it’s too easy for them to just make stuff up. See Jayson Blair et. al. for further details.
So newspaper editors have taken pains lately to specify just why they’ve granted anonymity to the sources they cite.
Here’s a typical disclaimer:
These people were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak.
But this quote from a New York Times piece about Michael Jackson takes the cake:
‘It’s all a mess,’ said one executive involved in Mr. Jackson’s financial affairs who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of respect for the entertainer’s family.
Puh-leeze. Saying nothing is respect for the entertainer’s family. Anything else is bushwa.