Wednesday, November 16, 2005
On TPM Cafe, commenter RT has some good advice for Bob Woodward, journalistic icon turned establishment shill:
I'm not a reporter; far from it. And I may not understand some of the dilemmas imposed by your profession. But you know what? I bet this will give you a pretty good clue, the vast majority of the time, about whether you ought to be giving a source the protection of confidentiality.
Because if his bosses are happy that he's saying what he's saying, then there's no need for him to be saying it on background. Maybe he, and they, are just using you. Just a hunch, Bob. And all you and your buddies are doing is carrying their water, doing stenography for them as they write anonymous letters to the public.
This is especially obvious in its truth when you aren't meeting with the source in some quiet corner, but rather in a meeting room or auditorium with half the Beltway press corps present, and copies of prepared remarks being handed out. If it's no secret to the whole damned press corps who the "senior Administration official" is, then what's the justification for keeping the rest of the country in the dark, other than to feel like you're 'in the know,' as they used to say in my dad's time? You aren't getting at the truth; you're doing a favor to a big-shot.
And one final hint on an unrelated matter: if a well-placed source tells you something "in an offhand, casual manner," as if it was "almost gossip," you might not "attach any great significance to it," but he might. After one-third of a century in the game, how is it that you're this easily played?
One of the things that made it possible for Woodward and Bernstein to break open the Watergate story was that they were not part of the Washington Establishment -- neither the entenched powers-that-be in public office or its media auxiliary. They were just hungry reporters who saw a good story that could promote their careers, and weren't deflected or biased by prejudices and preconceptions about what was possible or impossible to have occured. They weren't connected, nor did they have an axe to grind -- they just chewed away at the story because it was their lifeline and they needed it to work for them.
Don't shield powerful government officials who use the press for sleazy partisan activity they know the public would disapprove of. Oh, and write the real story, not the sleazy partisan smear job your valued "sources" are feeding you for the privilege of future access. It will pay off in the long run. You'll find yourself facing subpoenas and jail time far less often.
Yep.Ed Fitzgerald | 11/16/2005 10:46:00 PM | | | del.icio.us | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE