Publishing leaked secrets constitutes a moral judgment: the judgment that the public’s right to know what its government is doing is more important than the government’s right to deprive the public of information in order to protect the government’s own interest. This judgment happens to be true. But it is a judgment nonetheless. Governments will never stoop trying to protect their own interests. There is nothing wrong with the media using the power it has to actively fight against that tendency. Yes, it is political. Such is life.
The U.S. media hates to be seen as taking a political stand, and it also hates to be seen as working as some sort of unified front, rather than as a collection of fiercely independent competitors. But sometimes you have to give in to reality. When the government is throwing sources in jail for 35 years for leaking information, the media should be compelled to stand up and say, “No, that is not okay. No, that is not justice. No, that is not a fair use of government power. No, that is not an acceptable precedent in a free society. And yes, we will use the vast and powerful resources at our disposal to try to remedy this situation to the best of our abilities, because to do otherwise would be craven and cowardly. We are in this together.”
If journalists and publishers and media executives were facing 35 years in prison for publishing secrets, you can bet that their dormant sense of social justice would be activated lickety-split.
…where is the line between promoting the good work of others and simply lifting it? Naughty aggregation is analogous to pornography: You know it when you see it.
There are plenty of examples of reporters going to extreme lengths to satisfy exacting news desks without quite veering into obvious criminality. There was the tabloid freelancer who hid in a church organ for several days, defecating in a plastic bag, to get pictures of Madonna’s baby’s christening; there was the time Rebekah Brooks, then a lowly reporter, disguised herself as a cleaner to infiltrate the newsroom of a sister publication and nab a copy of their scoop.
But the great tapestry of tabloid infamy has always been viewed as an entertaining appendage to public life, mischievous rather than malicious. The UK press looks across the Atlantic and—with, to my British sensibility, some justification—views a moribund print culture that spends more time pontificating about morals than getting stories and making them interesting to readers. As the former Times editor and Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins once put it, “I was trained as a reptile lurking in the gutter whose sole job was ‘to get the bloody story.’” Not for nothing does the trophy for the country’s most prestigious investigative journalism award, the Bevins Prize, show a determined rat nosing up a drainpipe.
“Enthusiast site” is pejorative. Enthusiast implies that MacStories is produced by zealous hobbyists. Not naming the site at all implied that the site was not worthy of being named. To later attribute it to “macstories.net” rather than “MacStories” implies that it is something less than a fellow peer publication, and not even worth the effort of hitting the shift key to camelcase the M and S. MacStories is the name of the website; macstories.net is MacStories’s domain name. This is subtle, yes, but it is a disparagement nonetheless — the most begrudging form of attribution that could have been added. I don’t see the angle on it. Why not err on the side of magnanimity? Bestowing a measure of credibility upon Viticci by naming him would not have come at any cost to Ina Fried or AllThingsD. Reputation is not a zero-sum game. Defensiveness is never flattering.
I’m siding with @jayrosen_nyu and @jeffjarvis on this one. I think @jeffbercovici buried his own lede:
Rosen, one of the utopian media futurists I mentioned above, once accused me of having a “guild mentality” because I wrote that a Huffington Post blogger had demonstrated lousy ethics when she duped Bill Clinton into thinking she was a supporter rather than a reporter in order to get a quote from him. (As part of the deception, the blogger, Mayhill Fowler, concealed her tape reporter in her bra.) My suggestion that Huffpo ought to tell its volunteer contributors to adhere to some basic rules when performing acts of journalism was too much for Rosen, who also called me “pathetic.”
Feels like a hit piece to me. @cmonstah gets it exactly right (as usual) in the first comment:
I agree that training and the hand of an experienced editor is crucial in good journalism. And that the evaporation of a media hierarchy has resulted in plenty of unprofessional goings-on at the ground level. (Hello, James O’Keefe.) But, lordy, let’s not act as if legacy media is too dignified and learned to chase ridiculous news stories. (Disappeared white girls, Monica Lewinsky, OJ? Any of that stuff ring a bell?) Certainly that idiot pastor didn’t need the credibility of media coverage. One that, if I remember correctly, every outlet in the universe swooped in on after the original AFP item ran. In addition, all of this overlooks that there may have been *plenty* of factors in Afghanistan that led to the riots. A general dissatisfaction with U.S. policy? Militants looking for a justification to riot? A million other geopolitical factors? Take your pick.