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August 3, 2005
Miller's Conscience Goes Unrewarded

Judith Miller and her status as First Amendment martyr has provided a lesson in the shifting principles of the Exempt Media during her imprisonment for protecting her sources. She has not garnered the sympathy normally garnered from her media colleagues -- not because she broke the law and defied a court order, but because she protects sources they don't especially like. The latest example of this got the attention of Editor & Publisher, which reports that an independent writers group has rescinded an award for Miller:

The board of The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) has voted unanimously to reverse an earlier decision to give its annual Conscience in Media award to jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller, E&P has learned.

The group's First Amendment committee had narrowly voted to give Miller the prize for her dedication to protecting sources, but the full board has now voted to overturn that decision, based on its opinion that her entire career, and even her current actions in the Plame/CIA leak case, cast doubt on her credentials for this award. ...

Anita Bartholomew, a freelance journalist who has contributed to Reader's Digest, wrote in a resignation letter, "The First Amendment is designed to prevent government interference with a free press. Miller, by shielding a government official or officials who attempted to use the press to retaliate against a whistleblower, and scare off other would-be whistleblowers, has allied herself with government interference with, and censorship of, whistleblowers. When your source IS the government, and the government is attempting to use you to target a whistleblower, the notion of shielding a source must be reconsidered. To apply standard practices regarding sources to hiding wrongdoing at the highest levels of government perverts the intent of the First Amendment.

Well, if a whistleblower has access to anything useful, doesn't it usually mean they work within the government? In this case, the whistleblower got the media to report on what appears to have been a CIA effort to undermine the White House on the war by sending the spouse of one of their analysts on a mission and then have him leak inaccurate accounts of the report he filed. Whether that whistleblower was Karl Rove or another CIA analyst, that story needed to come out.

ASJA argues for a subjective basis on which to apply anonymity, primarily a political basis. If the person reveals information about people the media dislikes, then the source deserves protection and the journalist should have a legal shield against subpoenas. If the source, however, gives information that the media finds inconvenient for their predetermined narrative, then any journalist protecting that source deserves only scorn from her colleagues.

I wrote about this two weeks ago for the Weekly Standard:

Anonymous sourcing seems to have gone out of style faster than a long hemline at a summer fashion show in Paris. Six weeks after pillorying the critics of Woodward and Bernstein for their use of an anonymous source who abused his power to leak information to the Post, Broder saves up his contempt for the man who attempted to tip off the press that Wilson needed more investigation. Broder also appears not to have read the committee report--a bipartisan report that contradicts Broder's assertions of Wilson's performance in almost every detail.

The media has made their position clear: Not all anonymous sources are created equal. Those who discredit Republican presidents, like Mark Felt and Joe Wilson, get celebrity treatment and the best rhetorical defenses. Others can expect contempt and ridicule.

It didn't take long for ASJA to prove my analysis correct.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 3, 2005 12:43 PM

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» The Whistleblower Loophole to Selling out Sources and fellow Journalist from Truth Out Loud
Now a government source for leaks must be pure of heart in the mind of the press before his confidentiality is respected. It's sad to see the media so rabid in its efforts to get Rove that they will walk... [Read More]

Tracked on August 3, 2005 6:28 PM

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