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Psihala 10 September 2018 01:58 AM

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If it turned out the authors were caught by forensics, that's no concern for the paper
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It is if they want to protect a source.
I'm curious why the paper has to be concerned about publishing something that some "amomonous" (Trump's word) person wanted published--only to have someone else analyze it.

The paper has so far kept their promise to keep the person's identity secret. They have no say if some independent third party attempts to identify the writer(s) by their own means. Even if that third party has reasonable confidence in their analysis, as long as the paper doesn't confirm it, they're doing all they're obligated to do.

Isn't the onus of responsibility for taking a chance others will try to identify them on the author(s)? They can't have been so clueless that writing such a piece wouldn't have raised eyebrows.

~Psihala

Steve 10 September 2018 02:07 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Psihala (Post 1986873)
I'm curious why the paper has to be concerned about publishing something that some "amomonous" (Trump's word) person wanted published--only to have someone else analyze it.

The paper has so far kept their promise to keep the person's identity secret. They have no say if some independent third party attempts to identify the writer(s) by their own means. Even if that third party has reasonable confidence in their analysis, as long as the paper doesn't confirm it, they're doing all they're obligated to do.

Isn't the onus of responsibility for taking a chance others will try to identify them on the author(s)? They can't have been so clueless that writing such a piece wouldn't have raised eyebrows.

~Psihala

Ok, does the paper want future anonymous sources? They're less likely to get them if everyone know who wrote this one.

Did this paper make an agreement beforehand with this source to protect them but disguising the writing? Obviously I don't know, and maybe not. But maybe they did in which case they'd uphold those agreements. But even if you find this point too hypothetical, the first seems obvious.

Anyway, maybe the source did take the onus and disguise their own writing style by having his or her spouse rewrite the piece. That's possible as well, and is just as relevant to the points some of us are making about the legitimacy of lots of these linguistic tests.

ganzfeld 10 September 2018 02:30 AM

Anonymous sources and anonymous authors are two completely different animals. Anonymous authors of any piece are rare. I don't think they've published another anonymous op-ed in our lifetime. So do they want another? I don't even think it entered into the equation. ETA well they did publish another earlier this year apparently but it's extremely rare!

Steve 10 September 2018 02:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ganzfeld (Post 1986878)
Anonymous sources and anonymous authors are two completely different animals. Anonymous authors of any piece are rare. I don't think they've published another anonymous op-ed in our lifetime. So do they want another? I don't even think it entered into the equation.

I do. Why wouldn't the next anonymous source wonder "If the person who wrote that article got outed, then I might." And why wouldn't the person writing the article not want to be outed?

But yes, I agree. Anonymous op-eds in the Times are rare, possibly unique. So are some other things going on in the U.S. Doesn't mean they can't happen again.

Mouse 10 September 2018 02:41 AM

The editorial received enough of a response that The NY Times has put together something of a FAQ about it. They have a few responses to the “Why didn’t you put a name to it?”

Quote:

It has happened before. Earlier this year, we published an anonymous essay by an asylum seeker whose name we withheld because she was concerned about gang violence against her family in El Salvador. In 2016, we published this Op-Ed by a Syrian refugee in Greece, using her first name only because her family in Syria faced threats. We also published in 2016 an account of the Syrian civil war by a writer in Raqqa using a pen name to protect him from being targeted by the Islamic State.
As said before, I don’t consider this editorial to be the great sterling stroke of courage that people have made it out to be, but I thought this link would contribute to the discussion.

ganzfeld 10 September 2018 02:49 AM

There's only one person on the planet the writers don't want to be "outed" to and it's going to take a lot more than text amalis... anmalysis... that writing stuff to convince that person.

ganzfeld 10 September 2018 03:24 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Steve (Post 1986871)
Do they? I can see that they shouldn't alter the meaning, but if it turns out that Anonymous asked the editorial board to break up the longer sentences, or to alter some of the rhetorical flourishes, and the board complied, I don't see how the readers are let down.

OK, allow me to concede a bit here. I do think they would edit the piece's writing for an op-ed but I don't think they would change much. There is good reason not to -- its authenticity is what's at stake.
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I'm missing what's silly about it.
I think it would be silly for several reasons. First, without being experts in text analysis they can't promise anything. They could promise to try but I think that would be silly too because it's simply not their business how well the writers hide their own identity in their own writing. Another reason is that I think they can't make that promise every time so it doesn't really make sense to make it this time. The authenticity of their rare anonymous pieces would be at stake. Finally, the actual content of the piece, etc, is so much more likely to be revealing that, again, they could not make any such promise with any real credibility. They can do what they would normally do in the case of an anonymous quote and say "we will never reveal your name". (Anything more also jeopardizes anonymous contributions because no one wants their words changed.)‬

What I do think is likely is that the intermediate wrote the whole thing based on conversations with the origin and the paper confirmed it (that the origin "wrote" it) by calling both, at which point they both said yep. At that point, all the paper really had to do was edit for clarity as they would any letter to the editor and so forth. (Which they also try not to change much although as anyone who has ever had one published knows they do change a lot so I concede on that point.)

erwins 10 September 2018 04:46 PM

Just after the op-ed was published (day of or day after) the NYT podcast/radio show The Daily had the editorial page editor on the show to talk about it. (You'll have to search. I hit my article limit so I can't get the right link.) The host asked about "lodestar" and if they had considered changing anything to better conceal the person's identity. The editor said it never occurred to them to make such an offer. It sounded to me like the author was offering the op-ed but wanted it to run without their name. The Times agreed, after meeting the person in part to be sure it was authentic. The Times agreed to not reveal the person's name. The piece was lightly edited in the usual manner for such a piece.

This is not the same situation as agreeing to protect a source. In fact, as I understand it, Times reporters are free to try to figure out who it is. It is only the people who know because of the op-ed who are obligated not to reveal it, even to those reporters. This is different from having a protected source of information.

The editor said they had done this maybe 4 times in the past 10 years, so it isn't unprecedented.


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