TOKYO -- Television newsman Walter Cronkite urged reporters today to shun anonymous quotations except in extraordinary cases and said his new role as interviewee makes him wonder how good journalists are.
'I would like to see us all get off that terrible kick we've gotten on in recent years of using almost any story with anonymous sources,' Cronkite told a questioner at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.
'I think the anonymous source should be very much restricted. I'd like to see an anonymous source used by a newspaper, a press service or a broadcaster only with the approval of the board of managers, directors or the editorial board or whatever. It would have to be a most extraordinary circumstance to permit an anonymous source,' he said.
Cronkite, who recently retired as CBS evening news anchorman, is now a special correspondent for the network and is working on a series about science.
He said 'unconscionable pressure from the courts' to learn the sources of journalists' information and television's 'hypercompression of the news' were reasons for the media's reliance on anonymous sources.
Cronkite said a story about his trip to China last week that quoted sources not identified by name 'was a vast misrepresentation of a few kernels of truth.'
He said the Chinese had not demanded any money for CBS to film pandas and he didn't leave Peking in a huff, as the story (not UPI's) said.
'I didn't leave in a huff, I left in a Pan Am 747,' Cronkite told a laughing audience.
Cronkite said that as his retirement as anchorman neared, there was a lot of 'embarrassing attention on me personally by the press and I have been the subject of an awful lot of interviews.'
He said he had almost never seen an interview he gave in which the resulting story 'accurately portrayed the material that I thought that I had exposed and given out to the interviewer.'
He said, 'I'm wondering about our practices. I'm wondering about how good we are.'