"Journalists cannot hope to approach an accurate rendering of an event without revealing their sources. Every source who has supplied a journalist with a part of a story has selected that bit of information, whether it is true or false, for a particular purpose. That purpose may be to advance his own career, to advance the interests of the agency he works for, to discredit an enemy, to advance an ideological agenda, or simply to assist a reporter. The bits of information thus supplied can be properly evaluated only in light of the circumstances and context in which it was given. It is not enough simply to present the assertion of an interested party— even if it can be shown that it is "accurate," in the trivial sense of "accuracy" (which simply means correctly specifying the details touching on the event). One must know who made the disclosure and, ideally, why he made it to that particular individual at that particular moment in history. Concealing such information from the reader amounts to a deliberate disguising of the event itself, since such a process hides all the interests that selected, shape and possibly distorted the disclosures. To be sure, concealing the interests behind the disclosures of sources often serves the self interest of the journalist by making more likely that his sources will continue to provide him with information for public disclosure. This makes his job much easier, but at the same time it prevents any independent evaluation of his work, and omits what might be a critical part of the event.
Consider, for example, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’ celebrated Watergate stories– described on the jacket of their book, All The President’s Men, as "the most devastating political detective story of the century." For 30 years, they kept secret one of their principal sources, Deep Throat. Only now, three decades later, does Woodward intensify this mysterious information provider as W. Mark Felt, the FBI’s Associate Director (until he resigned in June 1973). Felt had begun his career at the FBI in 1941, according to his autobiography, as a disinformation officer. When J. Edgar Hoover died in 1972, it was Felt who took over a number of the most sensitive ones, including one entitled "Black Bag Jobs," the FBI term for its secret burglaries. Following the arrest of the Watergate burglars in June 1972, and the confession of Alfred C. Baldwin III, a former FBI agent, outlining to the FBI the full scope of the wire-tap conspiracy, Felt had a real concern that other illegal back bag jobs he had himself authorized, including warrentless and illegal break-ins into the homes of relatives of political radicals, could be exposed in the Watergate investigation. (Seven years after Watergate, Felt was convicted in Federal court of "unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together and with each other to injure and oppress citizens.") So there is some reason to assume that he was not acting out of pure altruism, when he contacted Woodward and other journalist and helped steer their stories.
Enter Donald H. Segretti, a young lawyer who had been playing "dirty tricks" on various Democrats in the primaries, but had nothing to do with illegal break-ins. Instead of telling Woodward about the extensive electronic eavesdropping that Baldwin had revealed to the FBI, Felt supplied Woodward with FBI "302" reports (containing interviews, phone-call records, and credit card records.) Believing Felt that these dirty tricks were an integral part of Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein wrote story after story about, even postulating that there were fifty other Segretti-type agents, all receiving information from Watergate-type bugging operations. It turned out this was at best a detour. (Segretti served a brief prison sentence for such "dirty tricks" as sending two hundred copies of a defamatory letter to Democrats), and Felt’s "50 other agents" never materialized-- except in a Woodward and Bernstein story .
To be sure, Felt directed Woodward to a number of more profitable areas, such as the destruction of documents by his superior at the FBI, L. Patrick Gray III. Less than 2 months after he supplied Woodward with this story, Felt was out of the FBI. He had evidently lost his power play. What this Machiavellian game involved, though an important part of the Watergate puzzle, was obscured so long as Woodward hid the fact that a high-ranking FBI executive was his source.
The conversion of Deep Throat into a mythic hero who helped journalist duo defeat the governmental Goliath is a tribute to the literary skills of Woodward and Bernstein."