Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Those Ubiquitous Sources

Pick up any biography on the royal family and you will read quotes or comments from unnamed people, or 'sources' as they're referred to. Whether 'Speaking on the condition of anonymity', or a 'trusted friend', they readily offer up intimate details. You may not realize this, but sources are everywhere. Maybe they're in the form of a co-worker or relative. You may be one yourself.

Sources are the life-blood of unauthorized biographies. Friends, relatives, servants, all willing to cooperate with the author to make the book more interesting or to present the subject's side of the story. Diana, her true story by Andrew Morton, and Prince Charles' autobiography by Johnathan Dimbleby, are two very good examples of this. Some sources, such as Deep Throat, are infamous.

Wanting to understand the phemonena of sources, I decided to track some down and interview them. I located three willing to talk to me: SOCA (Speaking on the condition of anonymity), TF (Trusted Friend), and US (Unnamed source).

M: What do you feel your role is?
SOCA: To get the truth out there
TF: Yes, sometimes the person may not be able to speak for themselves, so we go out there and do it for them.
US: Sometimes make them look good. Sometimes to make them look bad.

M: TF, don't you feel that you have a particular responsibility to maintain the privacy of your friend?

TF: I'd be out of a job if that were the case now wouldn't I?

M: Has there ever been any overlap? Where you know the same person? What do you do in that case?

SOCA: Well, newspapers love quotes so they can never have enough unnamed sources.
US: Yes, I'm in great demand.

M: Do you make any money?

US: We'll never tell
SOCA: (speaking to US) Don't you make money?
US: Should I?
SOCA: Well, being a servant doesn't pay as much...oops!

M: Do sources have their own sources?

TF: As a trusted friend I'm in a good position not to need to do that.
SOCA: TF has always been a good source for me
US: I don't like revealing my sources
SOCA: Thank you, I appreciate that

M: Have you ever fabricated a story?

US: Define fabrication
SOCA: Yes, that's a rather subjective term isn't it?
TF: That's a bit of an insult. We're professionals. We're good at what we do and we take a lot of pride in our job.
SOCA: Although sometimes the well does run dry. The royals can be pretty dull..
US: Yes, then we're doing them a service

© Marilyn Braun 2008

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