Our Journalese Dictionary has a chapter devoted to “Source Sorcery.” It solves the mystery of who reporters’ sources really are.
The Washington Post illustrated this in a story Dec. 14, 2020, on Russians’ hacking into U.S. treasury and commerce internet systems. In the first seven paragraphs, the story repeats five times that its source is “people familiar with the matter.” No names, of course, since those people familiar with the matter “spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.”
It’s comforting to know that the Post’s sources were so familiar with the matter that their bona fides had to be emphasized five times in seven grafs.
Now, one may ask, “Who the hell else would you get information from? People unfamiliar with the matter?”
But it is a bit different from another anonymous source: people with knowledge of the matter, a New York Times favorite. Both versions got about six million hits on a Google search, including this one:
The New York Times need to STOP using ‘People Familiar with the Matter’ as a source – Vox Deplorables (vox-deplorables.com)