Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The "ouch" factor

This, from the Los Angeles Times media columnist Tim Rutten, is sobering. He calls journalists to church with a plea for motive self-examination based on embarrassing revelations about their peers in the Scooter Libby trial (Judith Miller, Tim Russert, Matthew Cooper):
The picture that emerges here is of a stratum of the Washington press corps less interested in the sort of journalistic privilege that serves the public interest than in the kind of privileged access that ensures prominent bylines and good airplay.

And in the baseball doping BALCO case (SF Chronicle's Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who accepted leaked grand jury testimony from defense attorney Troy Ellerman; Ellerman then went out and argued that the ensuing publicity would deny his client a fair trial):
To assert any form of journalistic privilege in a situation like that is something far worse than moral obtuseness. Conspiring with somebody you know is actively perverting the administration of justice to your mutual advantage is a betrayal of the public interest whose protection is the only basis on which journalistic privilege of any sort has a right to assert itself.

If it isn't yet clear:
Journalists consumed with a self-interest so strong that it makes them the willing dupes of manipulative sources report what they're meant to report and not the information the public has a right to know.
...both the Libby trial and BALCO case can be seen as the indictment of the kind of journalism that asserts the right to protect its sources, to protect the public interest, but to conceal its own self-interested shortcomings.

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