Reporters as speculators.

Speculation in news stories is nothing new. Reporters and editors justify it by providing the source of the speculation, usually anonymous “observers,” “specialists,” “experts,” or “reliable sources.” Most likely, if there are such sources, he or she is a fixture at a saloon near city hall.

A front page, top story in The Boston Globe, July 5, 2017, about Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, provides an example of speculation purely by the reporter. It’s headlined: “For Warren, a new front but an old adversary — Trump remains the focus of her criticism as she grows into armed services role.” The story includes this: “Over the last six months , the Massachusetts democrat and former Harvard Law Professor has quietly established herself as a diligent –if uncharacteristically low key — newcomer to the Armed Services Committee. While approaching the subject with studious zeal, she’s also rounding out her political resume in ways that further stoke speculation about a possible run for president in 2020.”

There is no source of any such “speculation” in the long story. At least none I could find. However a final quote in the story refutes the “speculation.” Eric Rosenbach, chief of staff of Ashton Carter, Obama’s defense secretary, is quoted: “To me, the fact that she’s not making headlines, as a defense professional, is encouraging. She’s asking very good, substantive questions, that don’t seem driven by politics.”

File under: Reporters’ tea leaves and crystal balls.

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