Monday, August 16, 2004

I do not understand

Preface: I believe that the right thing to do is situational. In other words, cut and dry moral rules are not complex enough to decide what is the correct thing to do in some situations. The application of such moral rules can lead to the right decision in some cases and in other cases it could lead to the wrong one.


"Free Matt Cooper!And Walter Pincus! And maybe even Bob Novak"

I don't understand how the first amendment protects journalist from not giving up their sources.

So could a journalist report on a crime that someone told them about (which for arguments sake lets say that the source was involved in the crime) and named names of the people who committed the crimes.

Lets say that crime was a crime where children had died and lots of them?

How would you feel about a journalist not giving up their source because it is their first amendment right?

I know that I am sinking to the level of ad hominem, but I did it to make a point.

A journalist protecting their source (ie. Someone who commits a crime) could be protecting people who have hurt other's right to pursue freedom, happiness, and the American way. Which is stronger, the god given rights we have, or some amendment man wrote? I think I know which one the founders would choose.

Fitzgerald's Javertian pursuit of these three reporters for "information" is clearly unjust. Remember, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act was explicitly designed to avoid the establishment of an Official Secrets Act. It was meant to protect journalists such as Novak who occasionally name names. Instead, Fitzgerald is using the law to create the procedural equivalent of an Official Secrets Act. This is bullying, pure and simple.

These journalist are protecting someone who outed a CIA agent, they are protecting a person who could have possibly committed a crime. This entire article reeks of a journalists thinking they are better than everyone else, as if the journalists abide by their own set of rules. This habit of journalist protecting their sources seems like it was something that was drilled into them at school. It does not sound like the question was ever posed, "When should I protect my sources and when should I turn them over to the police?".

I can see how a journalists ability to get sources would decline once it was realized that the journalist would turn the sources over. If a journalist is protecting their sources for that reason, they are protecting their sources to protect their career, instead of abiding by some abstract moral code.

If I wrote a story on this blog, which dealt or helped facilitate a crime, I would go to jail once they caught me. I could not hide behind a fake name forever. The isp would had me over to just make a point, blogspot would not step in and save me.

Morally I don't see how journalist can unquestionably justify protecting their sources in all situations, though hiding behind the first amendment seems to let some of them sleep at night.

cube

3 comments:

Andrew said...

Journalism is a vital element in democracy, as it provides the information necessary for constituents to develop informed opinions. Ergo, the existence of journalism predicates the existence of democracy.

So the protection of sources is there in order to protect journalism and thereby protect democracy. As you pointed out, journalists who out their sources--criminal or otherwise--run the risk of never receiving criminal sources again. That's bad, because if every journalist did it, nobody would be able to report the inside 'scoop' on crime and the state would have priveledge to run amok; there would be little difference between arrest and conviction at that point.

Now, the way most people reasonable people interpret the whole situation is that journalist's do not have a constitutional right to withhold sources. If that were the case, the government wouldn't even think about applying pressure on them and putting them in jail for it. No, the right of journalists to withhold sources is an asserted right--journalists who feel that they need to withhold a source can practice civil disobedience and receive due punishment for their actions. If they don't think the particular source (and their reputation) is worth that sacrifice, they rat out there source. It's actually a beautiful arrangement, as it provides a marketplace for journalists to differentiate between obvious mass-child-murderers (who they have little interest in protecting for long) and certain strategic or controversial sources that may lead to bigger stories.

In this case, I'd say that they should out their source, as it appears that the reason they're not doing so is because they are partisan hacks, not principled journalists, and because its a matter of national security.

Cubicle said...

damn andrew, i think that we might agree on somthing.
you will have to read the preface, though i did not model it in a market place context, just a moral context. But i do agree that it is ok to withhold sources in some cases, but not this on.


though, i am not sure i follow you on this point.

"That's bad, because if every journalist did it, nobody would be able to report the inside 'scoop' on crime and the state would have priveledge to run amok; there would be little difference between arrest and conviction at that point."

I don't quite see the connection between a journalist turing over their criminal souces (in all situations), and the line between arest and conviction disappearing.

I would assert that it is not the journalist's job to find criminals it is the police's job to do that, so when journalist do those jobs they are just preforming a redunant function (though not a bad redunant funciton to preform). Journalist are more suited to ratting out goverment officials.

But i do see the connection between, protecting sources who rat out goverment officals and the goverment running amok.

Cubicle said...

"In this case, I'd say that they should out their source, as it appears that the reason they're not doing so is because they are partisan hacks, not principled journalists, and because its a matter of national security."

Well, i don't know why they are with holding thier sources, but i am leaning toward this one also.

But wouldn't it be a kicker if it was a democrat who realased the info and not a republican. Also, can charges of slander be filed?