Friday, March 09, 2007

Media backlash from Scooter case

Sorry I couldn't connect to the blogger site last night, but we're connected now.

A number of people have been writing about an outcome of the Scooter Libby trial I blogged about several weeks ago. Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post covers many of the bases in this piece, quoting Jim Warren, a Chicago Tribune managing editor: "There is an all-too-unsettling nexus between the political and media elite. This was a nice little window into the mutual obsession with one another. There's the infatuation with power which we all have and which was vividly underscored, especially those of us at elite institutions."

In the future, at least for a while, promises of confidentiality by journalists are likely to be greeted with a bit more wariness by officials. Perhaps requests for anonymity by officials will be greeted with more wariness by journalists. The cozy relationships won't be quite so cozy.

On balance this might not be so bad. I recognize that cultivating and using anonymous sources can sometimes be the best or even the only way for journalists to do what should be their real job: informing the public about what the government is doing with their money and their trust. But there's way too much anonymous sourcing in Washington reporting, and most of it has little or nothing to do with rooting out the truth, but with being used by an official to launch a trial ballon, dish an opponent or score a point in intra-bureaucratic power struggles. The public could do with a lot less of such gamesmanship.

As the latest scandal fades, of course, those all-too-cozy relationships will reassert themselves. But even a short period where officials and reporters are a bit more wary of one another can't be all bad.

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