Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Do we still need Freedom of the Press?

Leaking is bad for national security and those who do it and those who publish leaks of classified info should be prosecuted.

But what does the practice tell you about the honesty of the press, who proclaim that they are "speaking truth to power," when the "truth" comes from disgruntled government employees? Here are the nine core principles of journalists:
1. Journalism's first obligation is to the truth

2. Its first loyalty is to citizens.

3. Its essence is a discipline of verification.

4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover

5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.

6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.

7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.

8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.

9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.
Every journalist must have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility--a moral compass. Each of us must be willing, if fairness and accuracy require, to voice differences with our colleagues, whether in the newsroom or the executive suite. News organizations do well to nurture this independence by encouraging individuals to speak their minds. This stimulates the intellectual diversity necessary to understand and accurately cover an increasingly diverse society. It is this diversity of minds and voices, not just numbers, that matters.
Now consider the case of Dana Priest's protection of Mary McCarthy by granting her confidentiality while also claiming that she's not a source.

How do you verify or check the truth of a leak about black-site prisons in Eastern Europe? How is reporting classified information serving the citizenry? It basically substitutes the judgement of an editor and reporters for that of the elected representatives of the people. And how does reporting only for liberals show loyalty to the citizens? It ignores and insults a huge market, which is not even good business.

How is it independent when 90% of those delivering news belong to the same opinion group?

And when the media have become powers unto themselves, who will monitor them? When they're criticised or challenged, they get haughtly and dismissive. They talk about truth and providing "context," which usually means spin, but they ignore facts they don't like, which is why they hate talk radio hosts, conservative papers and Fox News.

The only reasonable conclusions is that the press doesn't believe or obey its own principles and has become a rogue rival to government.

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