A Times editorial on the CIA leak case says no reporter can choose the circumstances for upholding a principle."It doesn't matter whether we think a source is a good person or has good motivations. A reporter promises confidentiality, and the paper backs up the journalist because otherwise the public will not learn what it needs to know. ...Reporters cannot apply ideology when protecting their sources, any more than civil liberties lawyers can defend the First Amendment rights of only the people they agree with."
Nice theory--but the fact is that reporters do make moral choices based on ideology. In the journalistic pantheon of noble gods there's Deep Throat. From a reporter's perspective, he was critical to getting the Watergate story. Yet the inconsistencies were palpable in the way reporters handled his story and those in the Nixon administration. The narrative for Haldeman et al was about the abuse of power and law breaking. The narrative for Deep Throat was heroic. Yet consider that both Haldeman and Deep Throat were guilty of the abuse of power. Haldeman abused power to keep Nixon in office--and to keep his enemies at bay. Deep Throat abused power to nail Nixon. What abuse of power was Deep Throat guilty of? Revealing grand jury testimony, secrets from FBI files, and more. As Woodward says in his new book, The Secret Man, Mark Felt--AKA Deep Throat--was considered guilty by a top Justice Department attorney of violating his oath by revealing secrets.
Haldeman was a snake. Felt is a hero.
Morality, in short, counts. Reporters aren't neutral. If they were, Woodward would have had to blow the whistle on Mark Felt's abuse of power.
comments powered by Disqus
Jim Williams - 8/10/2005
I would agree more readily with the conclusion that Felt was a hero if the disclosures didn't help him to get even with those who passed him over for the FBI's top slot. I agree about Haldeman.
- ‘No Vacancies’ for Blacks: How Donald Trump Got His Start, and Was First Accused of Bias
- New Yorker profiles activist who's drawing attention to lynchings
- Wisconsin GOP senator wants to replace history professors with Ken Burns videos
- UT removes Confederate inscription that it previously said would stay
- The man behind the Smithsonian’s new African-American history museum
- Some Ohio University professors ditch the textbooks, and the prices
- Renowned Israeli Holocaust Historian: ‘If I Were a British Jew, I’d Be Worried’
- Heather Ann Thompson pries loose the long-kept secrets of Attica in her new book
- Lonnie Bunch remembers his first day on the job as director of the new black history museum
- Speaker Ryan loves pseudo-historian David Barton