Wednesday, February 2, 2011


When we learned the news that intrepid Post-Gazette reporter Dennis Roddy had accepted a lucrative job in newly-elected Governor Tom Corbett's administration, we couldn't help but reflect on the Post-Gazette's plethora of anonymously-sourced Bonusgate reporting.

For example:

In August of 2007, "sources" told the Post-Gazette the grand jury was investigating "[former Rep. Mike] Veon, as well as a half-dozen other Democratic activists, state employees and former legislators." (Post-Gazette, 8/30/07)

"As many as 100 people are expected to be called before the grand jury, a source close to the investigation told the Post-Gazette" in September 2007. (Post-Gazette, 9/21/07)

"Sources close to the investigation” told the Post-Gazette that disgraced former legislator Frank LaGrotta “has given extensive details to the attorney general's office about inside dealings in the Democratic caucus.” (Post-Gazette, 10/7/07)

"Sources close to the investigation" told the Post-Gazett that Corbett was "deciding whether to pursue obstruction charges against those thought to be responsible" for ordering the shredding of documents. (Post-Gazette, 11/22/07)

Also in December 2007, e-mails that “are a key component in an investigation by Attorney General Tom Corbett” were “obtained” by the Post-Gazette. (Post-Gazette, 12/16/07)

"Sources close to the probe" in April 2008 gave the Post-Gazette a detailed account of what LaGrotta told investigators. The sources also described an investigation into whether campaign checks to Democratic lawmakers from a Lackawanna County partnership were legal. It was unclear what law the contributions might have violated. (Post-Gazette. 4/11/08)

The Post-Gazette interviewed an intern who confirmed that he told the grand jury he'd shredded documents when he worked for the House Democrats. The newspaper did not disclose how it learned of the intern's testimony. In the same article, “sources close to the probe” said the shredding could complicate the investigation. (Post-Gazettte, 5/11/08)

A month later, the Post-Gazette interviewed four more grand jury witnesses, without disclosing how it learned of their testimony. (Post-Gazette, 6/8/08)

That same month, the Post-Gazette published more e-mails related to the investigation that it had “obtained.” (Post-Gazette, 6/15/08)

In July 2008, “sources” told the Post-Gazette that “a statewide grand jury has returned a presentment recommending criminal charges against several former state aides as well as at least one high ranking former state legislator. (Post-Gazette, 7/10/08)

After Corbett was embarrassed by the revelation that a House aide had implicated unindicted former House Democratic Campaign Committee Operations Chair Steve Stetler, the Post-Gazette helped soften the blow, citing "sources close to a continuing investigation," that "investigators are trying to decide whether they have enough to build a case against Mr. Stetler." (Post-Gazette, 6/19/09)

A "recently discovered box of files," according to "sources close to the investigation," appear to suggest widespread campaign activity inside Mr. DeWeese's Harrisburg and district offices during state work hours. (Post-Gazette, 6/28/09)

"Sources connected to the probe" revealed that the grand jury had invited Revenue Secretary Steve Stetler, former House Minority Leader Bill DeWeese and then-Majority Leader Todd Eachus (who never was charged) to testify. (Post-Gazette, 12/4/09)

According to the Grand Jury Act, persons sworn to secrecy during grand jury proceedings shall be held in contempt of court if they reveal any information which they are sworn to keep secret. Each participant in the grand jury proceeding: the prosecutor, the jurors, and the investigators, must take an oath not to reveal anything that occurs inside the jury room.

And what does the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists have to say about anonymous sources? "Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability ... Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity."

What could possibly be the motive behind leaking damaging information about Democrats in the months before a critical legislative election, and upon the unofficial launch of a Republican prosecutor's gubernatorial campaign? The prolific anonymously-sourced reporting mysteriously dried up during Corbett's ass-covering investigation of House Republicans.

Enjoy your new job, Mr. Roddy. You've earned it.


Anonymous said...

The PG always gave Roddy a pass on anonymous sourcing. I guess they never got burned, or at least not too much, and it made it easier for Roddy to beat the Trib, since the Trib was more strict about naming sources.

Anonymous said...

Who knows if they got burned. It's not like they correct their mistakes.

Anonymous said...

The Trib was more strict about naming sources??? Bumstead had plenty of "anonymous sources" feeding him materials. And just like Roddy, those LEAKS were usually well-timed to come out when Corbett, his corbettgate investigations, or his campaigns were getting some rare bad press. It's been widely suggested that these dupes kept sharing turns getting unethical/illegal grand jury leaks, and it wouldn't surprise anyone to hear those suggestions were true. Those little nuggets of breaking news kept both these guys carrying Corbett's water through two campaigns.