Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Confidential Sources? Sorry, that's confidential...

The media is currently all abuzz about the recent conviction of Scooter Libby. The trial's outcome does have consequences for more than just Libby, though. In Hope Yen's Associated Press article Libby Trial Prompts Scruitiny on Media, she points out the chilling effects of the disregard of the journalists' privilege in this case and talks about the future of journalists and their sources.

As the article states, over a dozen of Washington's best-known journalists took the stand in the prosecution of Libby, many unwillingly by court order, testifying about "confidential" conversations. This is nothing new in the federal courts, but the idea of confidential sources may come to an end of such occurrences become the norm. Yen goes as far as to say the use of disposable phones and the like may be steps that need to be taken to protect such sources.
"'There are limits' Jane Kirtley, a media ethics professor at the University of Minnesota, said. 'Reporters should have flexibility to negotiate deals with sources regarding 'background' and 'off-the-record' discussions - or risk not getting information at all.'"

The ethical system of duty could easily be applied to this situation. It is a reporters' duty to the public to inform them. The press has a responsibility to the citizens of this country and using whatever means possible must supply them with the truth. If the truth comes in the form of a confidential source, so be it. The reporter then also has the obligation to keep promises of confidentiality, as such--confidential.

In her article, Yen suggests a federal shield law to deter the problem that the court ordered testimonies are creating. In my opinion, if we're going to be maintaining a free and impartial press, I don't think there's any other way to solve it.


Post a Comment

<< Home