This case seems tailor-made for our purposes since it involves reporters, sources and attribution. In a Jan. 30 New York Times article about Judith Miller's testimony during the leak case against I. Lewis Libby the reporters disclose right off the bat that Miller was a reporter for the Times. The first two paragraphs set up the story by giving a little background on the case. In the third paragraph the reporters begin to tell what happened during Miller's testimony, and they use some very descriptive language that helps the reader imagine the atmosphere and proceedings: "As she began her testimony, she was calm and soft-voiced as she faced Mr. Fitzgerald."
The reporters go on to describe a change in Miller's demeanor in the fourth paragraph, using the following phrases: "caustic cross-examination," "composure slowly withered," "sigh frequently and grow testy in responses." These phrases imbue the scene with emotion but I believe the writers crossed a line between unbiased reporting and editorializing. But one can imagine the scene.
It would be challenging for the reporters to relate what happened without using such descriptive words, and as a reader I appreciate the dramatization. Still, if they had used more direct or indirect quotes, they may have been able to avoid sounding as if they were attempting to skew the reader's opinion. Not all their descriptions are emotion-laden; in paragraph five they write: "she said with her voice rising . . ." which is right in line with how our class is being taught to attribute. But in paragraph 17 they write: "He noted with a large measure of sarcasm . . . " In paragraph 21, the reporters neither attibute nor quote:
Beyond the drama of the day’s proceedings, the appearance of Ms. Miller as someone forced by the government to testify against a source emphasized how the case has changed the landscape of relations between journalists and government officials.
I notice that Times reporters use much more colorful language in their attributions than do other papers. Perhaps writing for the paper of record gives you special dispensation.
In an AP article written the following day, the reporter makes use of direct quotes to tell the story of the trial during Matt Cooper's testimony. Skip past the first nine paragraphs and you'll find dialogue that reads like a cheap crime novel:
Anticipating the defense attack, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asked whether Libby said where he heard that.
"Not in any way," Cooper replied.
Did he say he heard it from other reporters?
"No," Cooper said.
Cooper also said he didn't take any notes on that exchange and that he had posed his question to Libby "off the record." Later Cooper said off the record information cannot be attributed to the person but can be used to go get the information from others.
Libby attorney Jeffress pounded on Cooper's acknowledgments and also drew the jury's attention to the extensive notes and memos to Time editors that Cooper produced after his talk with Rove.
Jeffress asked Cooper if he ever asked Libby where he'd heard about Wilson's wife.
"I did not," Cooper replied.
His voice dripping with disbelief, Jeffress asked Cooper how he could take his exchange with Libby as confirmation.
"I took it as confirmation," Cooper said.
"Why didn't you put it in your memo to your editors?" Jeffress asked.
"I can't explain that," Cooper replied. "It was late in the day. I didn't write it down, but it is my memory."
"If somebody tells you something off the record, do you take it as confirmation?" Jeffress asked incredulously.
"I did in this case," Cooper replied. "You can use it to go to others and get a more fulsome account" that can be printed.
There is a bit of drama in that writing as well - "his voice dripping with sarcasm" and "Jeffress asked indredulously" - but the direct quotes give an account of the scene without a lot of filler.
For an audio recounting of the trial visit NPRs website.