Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tripping on principal

The Judith Miller/Matthew Cooper trial is bizarre and a bit of a conundrum for me. Don't get me wrong, usually I am all about arguing on principal alone, but... there are too many intersecting principals here. And all of the usual partisan siding is almost inextricably tangled.

I mean, if the anonymous leak was by liberals out for revenge, the sides would be so clear-cut: Conservatives could profess outrage against the leftist politicians and their dirty media dogs, and liberals could make some controverted claim to why the truth in this instance mattered, why it needed to get out. But it's not that simple.

I would like to say that without the coloring-book borders, this issue makes people think and that's a good thing. But I don't really see that happening either. It's more like people already know which side they should be on, based upon their stance on media in general, and either blindly or weakly take that stance.

"The unpopularity of the press has made this kind of attack on these journalists easier," said Roy Peter Clark, of the Poynter Institute in this Baltimore Sun article. While I don't really want to support these reporters in this specific instance, it really bothers me that this is the case chosen as the exemplar. From the prosecutor's comments, it seems that this really is some snarky "let's hit the press when we can" attack.

I like what this guy has to say (very journalistic of me). There's no anchor on the page, but if you scroll down past #3 to his "Solution" you find that he believes the legal answer to journalistic confidentiality is to protect journalism, not journalists. Sounds pretty good to me, I guess. But then we have to figure out a good definition for journalism.

And how do we figure out when they're doing "good" journalism? Oh wait, that's the whole point, isn't it...


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