People are wondering why the Wall Street Journal is able to run a completely unsourced story about Steve Jobs’ liver transplant. It’s because the WSJ is confident in its source but doesn’t want to indicate anything about the nature of that source. As ballsy as it seems, the reason big newspapers do this now and again is because the risk to their own credibility is minimized by adopting strict policies toward anonymous sources.
Gruber analyses the WSJ story at length today, and comes to a convincing conclusion:
That a member of Apple’s board of directors leaked the information to the Journal without Jobs’s permission or knowledge, or perhaps, if the matter of public disclosure had been posed to and dismissed by Jobs at a board meeting, expressly against Jobs’s wishes. The scenario I am imagining here is that Jobs does not wish to reveal anything regarding his medical situation, but that a member (or contingent) of Apple’s board believes it is in the company’s interest to release the basic gist of the story, regardless of Jobs’s wishes.
The risk to such a source would be immense: not just personal and immediate, but potentially career-destroying, with lawsuits at hand. We know it’s true not just because the WSJ is credible, but because we know that WSJ doesn’t habitually launder nonsense into news: it will have made clear to its source that deception will result in exposure.
A good reporter protects whistleblowers and leakers to the point of unreason. But liars will always be burned by credible media, and the WSJ’s sources know it. You only have to look at the thoroughness of Gruber’s deconstruction — already homing in on a handful of suspects — to see why it’s keeping its mouth shut about its source.
Either that, or HIPAA laws were broken somewhere to get this story, and sourcing it could imply that a crime occurred.