How does a college student “intern” become a “senior adviser”?

How does a college student “intern” become a “senior adviser”?

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In 2011, the New York Times admitted several anonymous sources for a front page article about shale gas with titles of:

  • “official”
  • “energy analyst”
  • “federal analyst”
  • “senior adviser” [note – may be spelled either adviser or advisor]
  • “senior official”

were, in actual fact,

  • a college student intern in the organization.

The New York Times defended its use of an intern as a “senior official”, said the New York Times Public Editor[1].

Source: Why Redacting E-Mails Is a Bad Idea – The New York Times

News reporters elevate titles all the time. I once worked for a tech company and had the title Program Manager. In that organization, a Program Manager is typically a low level position that drives a project but who does not manage people.

Several news reports included quotes from program managers at the company, and referred to program managers as “executives”. The title inflation made the news report more persuasive through an “Appeal to Authority”. (As a corollary, I was thrilled to learn that I had been, in fact, an executive! Hah hah!)

Last Fall, journalist and founder and editor of MAKE Magazine Gary Doherty sourced inflammatory and defaming comments about a female Chinese DIY maker from an anonymous Reddit post. He later apologized and wrote a column blaming his actions on his being “a white, Western, male CEO” rather than acknowledge his own idiocy was the sole cause.

Anonymous sources are bad. Anonymous sources are a clue that what follows may be agenda driven and unreliable and should not be taken too seriously. Or so a “senior federal official” has told me.

[1] In 2017, the New York Times eliminated its Public Editor position intended to listen to their customers and to hold staff accountable.

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