Friday, July 01, 2005

Five Questions on the Plame Case--UPDATED 7.5.05

Editor sells out his reporter and a happy Fourth of July to all.
July 1, 2005

Going back in Time--I have five questions to raise about the decision by Time Magazine to produce the notes of its reporter, Matthew Cooper, in court rather than fight.

1. How can any reporter for Time magazine now give assurances to a potential confidential source that he will protect that confidentiality knowing he has a eunuch for an editor? As one critic said, Time’s days as an investigative journal are over. It is a high-gloss People.

2. Why would any whistle-blower with a story to tell that could be important to the running of our democracy take it to a Time magazine reporter when he can go to the New York Times and be assured they will protect him?

3. Why would a court order journalists to declare the identity of their source when the special prosecutor says he already knows who it is?

4. Why is the Washington press court not circling around Robert Novak, the man who triggered all of this and has refused to discuss it like the sharks they can sometimes be? Too much “old boy” here? Novak, accurately described by Jon Stewart as the “scum bag of democracy,” is still showing up on television ranting about the ethics and morality of others. It was he who published the name of the CIA agent and it is others who are threatened with jail, including Judith Miller who never actually wrote a story. Clearly one of two things has happened: a) he squealed to the grand jury like the scum bag he is, or b) he took the Fifth Amendment. Since the law reads that publishing the name is not against the law--only revealing it is--it is probably the former. He now claims he was not responsible for the other reporters being threatened with jail, but of course had he not printed the name, they wouldn’t be.

5. Anybody but me notice that it was the publication owned by media conglomerate that capitulated and the one owned by a family stood by its man (or woman, in this case)? As a friend, Laurie Garrett, once told stockholders in the old Times Mirror Company, if you don't want the responsibility of owning a press in a democracy, go invest in a shoe company and leave us the hell alone.

Just a small rant. Have a great July 4. Just remember that we are the nation that lectures others on the importance of a free press. Now think of Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller and the guys who threatened them and thee editor who sold them.

For a serious discussion of same, try Steve Lovelady's piece in Columbia Journalism Review. Lovelady was the managing editor (I think that was his title) at the Philadelphia Inquirer when I was there. Is is right on the money. Go here.

UPDATE-- The answer to number three may be that the special prosecutor wants to charge perjury and perjury requires two witnesses. If someone went before the grand jury and announced that he did not leak the agent's name and the prosecutor can find two witnesses that say he did (say, Novak and one other), he has a case. It also is reported that Newsweek and several other sources also know who the leaker was: Karl Rove. That would be interesting.

UPDATE--On Tuesday, the special prosecutor said he would still need Cooper's testimony even though the magazine turned over Cooper's notes (if they are like my notes, they are unintelligible, even to me). So selling out his reported didn't do the editor of Time much good, did it? And the prosecutor said the reporters shouldn't do home confinement but should be sent to the slammer.

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