Liberally Conservative

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free....... ~Ronald Reagan~

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Wall Street Journal vs. New York Times - The Gloves Come Off!

On April 26th The Wall Street Journal wrote Our Rotten IntelligenCIA (subscription required). The main discussion was CIA leaks and the media. The sub-title was "To media partisans, some leaks are more equal than others."
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Is it untrue government officials leak information, classified or otherwise, to major newspapers, primarily the Washington Post and New York Times? Pulitzer Prizes and fortunes have been made for stories obtained via the "leak." And to say the media doesn't swing left is like saying the sun doesn't come up in the East and set in the West. Who is fooling who? The WSJ writes the following:
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It would appear that the only relevant difference here is whose political ox is being gored, and whether a liberal or conservative journalist was the beneficiary of the leak. That the press sought to hound Robert Novak out of polite society for the Plame disclosure and then rewards Ms. Priest and Mr. Risen with Pulitzers proves the worst that any critic has ever said about media bias.
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The deepest damage from these leak frenzies may yet be to the press itself, both in credibility and its ability to do its job. It was the press that unleashed anti-leak search missions aimed at the White House that have seen Judith Miller jailed and may find Ms. Priest and Mr. Risen facing subpoenas. And it was the press that promoted the probe under the rarely used Espionage Act of "neocon" Defense Department employee Lawrence Franklin, only to find that the same law may now be used against its own "whistleblower" sources. Just recently has the press begun to notice that the use of the same Espionage Act to prosecute two pro-Israel lobbyists for repeating classified information isn't much different from prosecuting someone for what the press does every day--except for a far larger audience.
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The New York Times is offended and has been given space in The Wall Street Journal to vent it's complaint. I contend if this was turned around the WSJ story would be buried on page 27 of Section D.
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Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times. cries out in "Striking a Balance, The New York Times executive editor on leaks and partisanship." (subscription required).
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Your editorial [WSJ] posits a conspiracy between journalists and "a cabal of partisan bureaucrats" to undermine President Bush by sabotaging the war on terror. Among the suspects swept up and summarily convicted in your argument are: a) government officials who have disclosed secret doings of the government (with the exception of President Bush, whose leak-authorizing somehow escapes your notice); b) reporters and editors at the New York Times and Washington Post for reporting on these secret doings--notably the detention of terror suspects in CIA facilities in Europe and eavesdropping on Americans without warrants; and c) the Pulitzer Board, which honored both of those journalistic exploits last week.
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I leave to others, including the court of public opinion, whether the government officials who spoke to reporters about secrets that troubled them were partisan evildoers, as the Journal contends, or conscientious public servants, or something more complicated. Since most of them, including the nearly a dozen who were cited in the first warrantless eavesdropping story, have not been publicly identified, it's hard to know how the Journal is so certain of their motives.
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As regards the journalists, the editorial is animated by a couple of assumptions. One is that when journalists write things politicians don't like, the motivation is sure to be political. The other is that when presidents declare that secrecy is in the national interest, reporters should take that at face value. I don't believe either of those things is true, and I find it hard to believe that you do, either.
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To believe that aggressive journalism is driven by liberal partisanship requires an awfully selective memory. (Ask Bill Clinton. Ask Congressman Mollohan.) The role of journalism on our side of the news/opinion divide, at least as we aspire to perform it, is not to be advocates for or against any president or any party or any cause. It is not to tell our readers what we think or what they should think, but to provide information and analysis that enables them to make up their own minds. We are sometimes too credulous, sometimes too cynical--in other words, we are human--but I think we get the balance right most of the time, and when we don't we feel an obligation to correct it.
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In addition to fair treatment in the news pages, presidents are entitled to a respectful and attentive hearing, particularly when they make claims based on the safety of the country. In the case of the eavesdropping story, President Bush and other figures in his administration were given abundant opportunities to explain why they felt our information should not be published. We considered the evidence presented to us, agonized over it, delayed publication because of it. In the end, their case did not stand up to the evidence our reporters amassed, and we judged that the responsible course was to publish what we knew and let readers assess it themselves. You are welcome to question that judgment, but you have presented no basis for challenging it, let alone for attributing it to bad faith or animus toward the president.
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Talk about the fox guarding the hen house! Keller believes "classified" isn't important when their reporters have considered the evidence, make a decision the information does not stand up to their scrutiny and proclaim publishing classified details is "responsible."
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If Mr. Keller was being honest with himself and WSJ readers he would understand the American people don't approve of the media printing classified material. By a decided margin, U.S. citizens find publicly disseminated classified information, as well as leaking it, is unconscionable and dangerous. It is also against the law. Obviously Mr. Keller still believes law breaking is alright if it makes front page news and wins the Pulitzer.

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5 Comments:

Blogger watcher said...

I know many in the media think they're self-appointed watchdogs of government, but what makes them think they are are better qualified than our elected officials to determine what should be classified and what should not be? I think a certain level of faith must be given to our leaders--regardless of party--when they decide to classify information, especially when that information is senstive with a current, on-going event.

5/13/2006 10:16:00 PM  
Anonymous rsr0825 said...

Watcher, I completely agree. When classified information is leaked to the press, the reporters and the leakers should most definitely be held accountable for thier actions. Traitors to the American government should be treated as such, and should not be allowed to hide behind a mask of "journalistic duty." A great majority of American support the recent actions of the Bush Administration, and I'm one of them.

5/15/2006 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Lola said...

The MSM either doesn't understand or doesn't care that publishing these "leaks" is putting American lives in danger and compromising our country's security. Sadly, they will do whatever it takes to accomplish their goal of discrediting President Bush's Administration while earning literary accolades. But, in the process they have lost the faith of many Americans and will soon realize that without an audience their outlet will cease to exist.

5/17/2006 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger watcher said...

Lola,

I'm sure if you asked the media, they'd tell you that they understand exactly what they're doing, and that their leaking information is all for the greater good. I'm not so naive as to believe that those in power have always made the right decisions (or made them for the right reasons), but the media, in my opinion, makes a simple mistake of logic: they assume that anything kept secret is a secret because it's somehow related to nefarious activities. They feel like they're cruaders exposing injustice, when in fact, they do as much harm as good.

A great deal of this problem would go away if this country would do away with the practice of allowing anonymous sources. I think the days are long past when sources need fear for their lives if they speak out against the government or big business (at least, I hope they are!). Anonymity encourages people to sell information to the highest bidder, because they're not risking anything in the process.

5/18/2006 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger Liberally Conservative said...

An interesting book, "John Adams" by McCullough has excellent examples of how vicious the press was during the years when a country was been formed, pre-1776.

Some papers were started for the explicit purpose of destroying one's character as a political tool.

It was a fascinating portion of the history of a great founding father.

5/19/2006 01:02:00 PM  

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