Anonymous sources are the bane of a reporter's existence, and have been at least since Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein used them extensively to unmask Watergate and topple Richard Nixon.
Frankly, writing as someone who has been covering news since the late 1960s for everything from local newspapers to major market TV and radio stations, to a major business newsweekly, journalists don't like citing anonymous sources any more than much of the public likes reading pieces that quote people without attribution. Alas, more often than not, the reality is that in a highly-explosive story such as my piece about Sarah Palin I posted, granting anonymity may be the only way to get a source to agree to be interviewed.
So I am not surprised that a number of readers who wrote comments about the article raised questions about my sources. It has happened before, especially when I tackled a subject that raises a lot of dust, and it will happen again. Although I won't reveal any sources – I honor promises of anonymity – let me explain how the story unfolded and sources came to my attention as I did the reporting.
Desperately Seeking Lucille
When Palin's name began leaking out the morning of Aug. 30, I sent an e-mail to an old friend from childhood who has been teaching in Alaska since he finished far too much graduate school, basically asking, "Who is Sarah Palin when it's not raining and what was she before?"
He wrote back with not just a lengthy, invective-filled diatribe against her and the horse she rode in on but also a link to a 63-page vetting report (http://mudflats.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/palin-2006-vetting.pdf) on Palin he said was done up some time ago by Alaska Democrats. After reading it – information in the dossier goes all the way back to 2002 – I wrote again asking if he knew people I could contact for a possible article. A short list of names was provided, including Lucille the Waitress, the much-discussed and oft-doubted woman who seems to have drawn the largest number of questions from commentators on the article.
And how does he know her? Well, like many people living on minimum wage and tips, Lucille holds a second job which, in this case, includes cleaning my friend's family home every other week.