Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Secret sources

There's been a lot of talk in the news recently about the Scooter Libby trial and protection for reporters and their secret sources. Today on Morning Edition, reporter Robert Zelnick argued that we should pass federal legislation to protect these reporters, claiming that "...something very precious between sources and reporters is under a more sustained attack than it has ever been before." I was thinking about it, and I can think of only a few reasons why someone would want to leak information secretly:

1. You're revealing an underhanded or illegal thing that someone else has been doing and you might get fired (or in some other kind of trouble)
2. You're doing it for personal gain - money, favors, corporate espionage, notoriety (although in the last case you'd hardly want keep your name secret)
3. You're doing it to control the press (as the White House was doing by leaking information)

I'm not really interested in protecting the folks in the last two categories, and the ones in the first category are unlikely to get prosecuted for being a secret source, since they will have the protection of having good motives and outing someone who did something much worse than the fact that they outed it.

So who is this "protection of sources" really protecting? I don't think it's the public, but the reporters who want to share information that will sell a lot of newspapers certainly have something to gain.

No comments: