Takes Two to Make a Secret

The Obama campaign's moronic "D-Punjab" memo isn't a very interesting issue, but it prompts Karen Tumulty to bring up one with a bit more meat:

The answer to this is, campaigns should not be allowed to distribute things on a NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION basis. Both NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION and OFF THE RECORD (and their cousins, BACKGROUND and DEEP BACKGROUND) are understandings that are agreed to mutually by a source and a reporter. What I've noticed about this cycle is that campaigns (and not just Obama's) are falling into a bad and sloppy habit of sending out mass hit pieces by e-mail and demanding anonymity. As far as I am concerned, unless I have agreed in advance to accept a specific piece of material from a source on a limited or not for attribution basis, these unilateral declarations of anonymity mean nothing.

I agree. What's more, all it takes to put a stop to this kind of thing is a little media solidarity. Nobody really wants to be the first reporter to burn a unilateral declaration of anonymity out of fear of being taken off distribution lists, thus giving the competition a leg up. All it would take, however, is for a smallish critical mass of journalists to stop respecting unilateral declarations and the whole practice would fall apart. So, for the record, I concur; unless I agree in advance not to identify the source of something (for which I would expect something approaching a good reason), then the truth will be told.