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A suggestion, not an obligation

Stephen Adler‘s “backstories” proposal should surely be just that: merely a suggestion with which Reuters correspondents may comply if and when appropriate, but without any obligation let alone compulsion.

Looking back on 33 years in Reuters, more than half as a correspondent, I can recall many important stories where I would never have revealed for publication how they were obtained and handled. In particular much of my cover of the violent first two years of the Cultural Revolution in Beijing 1966-7 and then in a later China posting the Tianamen massacre and its political and social aftermath in 1989. In a totalitarian state no trusted correspondent should be asked to say how he or she obtained information. Even in easier countries, I would seldom have wanted to report how I managed just occasionally to put Reuters far ahead on a truly major story. I certainly would not have wanted to admit that sheer luck played a major part in at least three such, in Congo, Bonn, and Tokyo.

Less cheerfully, Stephen Adler’s suggestion might, in I hope only a few cases, pander to the desire of some to indulge in easy self-promotion. ■