Monday, September 12, 2005

WaPo's Rathergate

Armando @ Daily Kos takes Howard Krz @ the WaPo to task on the way they got suckered by an "anonymous source" within the White House on the "when did Blanco declare a state of emergency" story. Armando thinks Howie missed the point:
Howie -- the story is NOT about whether WaPo should blow its anonymous source --- the story is about WaPo's egregious unprofessionalism.

Howie, Spencer, Michael, have you guys heard of Google? How about a telephone? It would have taken you all of 10 seconds to check that fact. Or better yet, did you have any state officials as sources for your story? And if not, why not? Were you just doing stenography for BushCo?

Finally, why would you need a source to go anonymous on a fact that was a matter of public record?

The point is simple --- this was horrendously bad journalism. The fact that Blanco DID declare a state of emergency was central to the story. The fact she DID declare a state of emergency completely undermined the story. The fact is that the Washington Post's journalism on this story is every bit as bad or worse than the journalism much berated by you Howie in Rathergate.

No question that WaPo's work utterly sucked. But I think both Armando and Howie miss the real point. The story is about anonymous sourcing. I'm working on a longer piece on the subject, but the upshot is that there is absolutely no long or short-term justification for protecting White House sources when they lie. None.

Shoddy work should of course be pointed out and ridiculed. But, giving the Post the benefit of the doubt, I will provisionally concede that being flat-out punked is probably not editorial policy. But Howie lets loose the mind-boggling admission that "We don't blow sources, period." As a firm believer in the freedom of the press, I utterly reject that formulation. It simply must be the case that there comes a point at which a source so abuses the power granted by such a blank check that the highest duty of the press -- to us, the public -- overrides the utilitarian benefits of a policy of shielding sources. The WaPo policy benefits only the powerful and Howie's access to them.


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