A Chilling Effect?

by TChris

There are reasons to worry that jailing reporters will have a chilling effect on the media's willingness to report stories that are based on leaked information. On the other hand, newspapers that suppress stories for fear that reporters will be jailed if they don't reveal their sources aren't doing their job. That seems to be the case in Cleveland.

The editor of The Cleveland Plain Dealer said last night that the newspaper, acting on the advice of its lawyers, was withholding publication of two major investigative articles because they were based on illegally leaked documents and could lead to penalties against the paper and the jailing of reporters.

Plain Dealer editor Doug Clifton says the stories are "profoundly important" and of significant public interest. So why isn't the paper publishing them?

"[The lawyers] said, This is a super, super high-risk endeavor and you would, you know, you'd lose," Mr. Clifton told Editor & Publisher. "The reporters say, 'Well, we're willing to go to jail,' and I'm willing to go to jail if it gets laid on me, but the newspaper isn't willing to go to jail."

Newspapers don't actually go to jail. If the reporters are willing to take the heat, the paper should publish the story. What good is freedom of the press if the press is too chicken to exercise its freedom?

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  • Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:02 PM EST
    I concur. And Ohio has a fairly good law on the books protecting whistleblowers and reporters anonymous sources, so I don't understand just why the PD's lawyers advised the newspaper that they could get in a bunch of trouble.

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#2)
    by jarober on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:02 PM EST
    Which part of illegal confuses you?

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#3)
    by Dadler on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:02 PM EST
    And if the reporter in question is a lying dupe without an ounce of logic on her side...we still let it slide? Judith Miller was a frightened, cowardly, pathetic excuse for a reporter, who bought everything this wretched administration fed to her. When there is a case, as clear cut as this, when the "source" was OBVIOUSLY damaging the country, we still can't judge it on its own merits? Quite a free country we have here. Judith Miller's ego and fear allowed her to lie, cheat, manipulate public opinion, and, besides, I don't consider her anything even approaching a REAL reporer anymore. Her career is over, rightfully. She let us all down.

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#4)
    by veloer on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:02 PM EST
    Now that the existence of these stories is widely know, it will not be long before they are “outed.” (I hope)

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:02 PM EST
    If the "chilling effect" is to stop reporters from reporting "leaked information" whose only purpose is to defame and destroy a political opponent, then so be it. As Fitzgerald the special prosecutor said, this is not a whistleblower case, it's a criminal case.

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#6)
    by Dadler on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:02 PM EST
    I should add that if the "source" Judith Miller is protecting is NOT engaged in criminality with a leak, then the only other option is this: the "source" is verifying for Miller than Plame's ID has been leaked for retributive purposes by powerful peeps in the admin. THEN she would be protecting a whistl-blower, whose whistle is blowing to war the PUBLIC of malfeasance. And all Miller would have to do is come out and say this is what her "source" was sourcing. But she hasn't, so one can only conclude she is NOT protecting anyone doing a good deed. And that she is doing this to save herself the embarrassment of being entangled in that criminal's web. Judith Miller was swept up, by fear, by naivete, by sheer inexperience. And she simply cannot stand up and say that. Instead, she pretends to be upholding some risky journalistic standard by going to jail. When, in reality, she's in the pokey because she can't face the reality of her own incompetence. THAT is much more difficult, if not impossible, for her to countenance than martrying herself in a counterfeit manner -- as she is now.

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#7)
    by Dadler on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:02 PM EST
    Lord I need to buy a new keyboard. Forgive me for the proofreading mess that was my last missive.

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#8)
    by ppjakajim on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:02 PM EST
    dadler - So if a reporter protects a source that the Left disagrees with, to hell with'em, eh? Nice. Very Nice. You owe Ms Miller an apology.

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#9)
    by Dadler on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:02 PM EST
    Jim, You would NEVER accept this kind of outing from the left. I know you well enough, after a few years of blogging here. We disagree. Are you really saying, tho, that Miller is protecting this source because she DOES think Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson are the new Rosenbergs? Big kisses, poker puss.

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#10)
    by Sailor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:02 PM EST
    It isn't left or right, as mr. scarecrow would try to 'disassemble'; the difference is cooper and miller were advancing the admin's retaliation AGAINST a whistleblower. The admin has a whole gov't to advance their goals. it is whistleblowers who need protection, not this or any other admin.

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#11)
    by ppjakajim on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:02 PM EST
    Dadler - Tell me that if some Federal Judge had put Woodward and Berstein in jail for not revealing Deep Throat you wouldn't be screaming. Slobbers yourself, big guy! sailor - So the principle doesn't matter?

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    Deep throat was a whistleblower to a crime. These people, in becoming a "source", committed a crime. Now, if someone revealed the "secret source" who outed an undercover CIA agent, that person would be, in my mind, a whistleblower. That's the person I'd go to jail to protect.

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Andreas on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    The World Socialist Web Site unreservedly condemns the jailing of Judith Miller and the threats of jail against Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper. We demand Miller’s immediate release and the dropping of all charges. We call on all student groups, left-wing organizations and civil liberties groups to join in this demand. At stake is a fundamental question of democratic rights—freedom of the press to investigate and make public information relating to the operations of the government, activities which the Bush administration is seeking to keep secret. The persecution of Miller is aimed at silencing any critical media coverage of the government—whether it relates to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the practice of torture, kidnapping and illegal detention, the massive expansion of domestic spying, or official cover-ups of corporate criminality.
    Jailing of Times reporter: an attack on press freedom and democratic rights By Patrick Martin, 7 July 2005

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#15)
    by ppjakajim on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    et al - The problem is that two standards are in play. Miller did wrong and W & B did right. You can't have it both ways. You can't support W & B and not Miller. Either a reporter is supposed to protect a source, or not. Why? Because that puts the reporter into the position of replacing the criminal justice system. W & B’s source did a good thing, so let’s not out him. Miller’s did not, so she should out him. cheetah may be perfectly justified in his mind, but what happens when the tables are flipped? The larger problem is that the press has lost credibility with the public. Something they never had a lot of, but of which they have even less, now. The reasons? Multiple actions that display a huge bias and willingness to play loose with the facts. Some examples. The New York Times, and Jason Blair’s made up stories. CNN and Eason Jordan’s false claims that the US was targeting reporters. CNN’s false story, “Tailwind” that falsely claimed the US used nerve gas in Vietnam. CBS News’ story by Walter Cronkite that falsely characterized the Tet Offensive in Vietnam as a loss for the US. CBS News’ Rathergate story that was proven fake. USA Today’s Rathergate story. I don’t think they even published an apology. The Washington Post story about a dope addict that netted the reported a Pulitzer. Problem was, the addict didn’t exist. The Boston Globe’s story by Barbara Stewart about the seal hunt that had not happened. I could go on, but I think you get the point. So a chilling effect? Yes. But the press is its own worst enemy.

    Re: A Chilling Effect? (none / 0) (#16)
    by Sailor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:04 PM EST
    There is only one standard in play. The admin has multiple media outlets, the bully pulpit (boy is that more accurate than ever), and can call a national televised circle jerk whenever they want. This admin also pays 'journalists' to flog thier POV. The gov't needs no protection, whistle blowers do. Cooper, Miller, et al were not 'fighting the man' they were helping the man disseminate his propaganda. There is nothing more chilling than having your life, job, family at danger; and this admin has made sure that anyone who disagrees with them knows that.