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Tag: Sources

Eric Starkman: Reporters’ Conflicts of Interest, Romance And All

Eric Starkman is free-lance writer living in Los Angeles.

By Eric Starkman

Reading about Ali Watkins, the New York Times reporter romantically involved with the former Senate aide arrested for lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters, I wasn’t alone recalling the immortal words of the newspaper’s legendary editor Abe Rosenthal: “I don’t care if you f…k an elephant, just so long as you don’t cover the circus.” Rosenthal, whose tombstone says, “He kept the paper straight,” made the comment when he was asked why he fired a Times reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer after discovering she slept with one of her sources while working there.

But those who believe that sleeping with sources violates a cardinal journalism rule are clinging to an era when newsrooms were littered with Olivetti typewriters and pneumatic tubes. The practice is widespread and known and countenanced by editors for decades.  In the more than four decades I worked in media and public relations, comprised reporters and other journalistic wrongdoing was commonplace. One example is the Times editor romantically involved with a PR executive whose clients the newspaper was always magically interested in.

But don’t take my word on this.

In 2009, Gawker published this story about Times reporters involved with their sources, including former White House correspondent Todd Purdum, who married Clinton spokesperson Dee Dee Myers, and reporter Bernard Weinraub, who covered Hollywood while dating then Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal. Four years later, the Washington Post published a headlined story, “Media, administration deal with conflicts (emphasis mine),” and chronicled the pervasiveness of the Beltway’s incestuous relationships. Breitbart has published a more current list of possibly conflicted Washington reporters.

Rosenthal declared his edict when the Times reigned supreme and competition was considerably more limited. In his day, being right was a bigger priority than being first, and the Times was careful to print only information that it had independently verified. The Times rarely exceled on the first day of a breaking story, but its second-day reporting ran circles around the competition. Hence the moniker, “The newspaper of record.”

Read more »

Washington Post Criticized for Story About Prostitution Scandal Because of Source

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Washington Post published a story in October that revealed White House aides knew of a possible link between Columbia and prostitution.

But since then, some questions have been raised about the credibility of one of the story’s sources, The Huffington Post reported.

The report suggested that David Nieland, one of the sources, was a troubled employee who may not be trustworthy.

But the Post still stands behind the story.

“We fully stand by our story, which relied on multiple investigative records and multiple sources,” Baron said in an email Thursday to The Huffington Post. “It is false to suggest that the story relied disproportionately on any one individual.

“The story focused on what the White House knew and the thoroughness of its investigation,” Baron continued. “Absolutely nothing in the story needs to be corrected. The story was perfectly clear about what was known and not known.”

What wasn’t clear was whether Baron knew about Nieland’s credibility issues.

U.S. Atty. Fitzgerald Says Reporters Need To Disclose Sources When Ordered

Patrick Fitzgerald says reporters must obey when ordered by a judge to reveal sources. I disagree. Some of the biggest corruption scandals would never have come to light without reporters’ willingness to protect sources and go to jail if necessary. Besides, the real point here is that Congress needs to pass a federal shield law to protect reporters and sources. That would end the argument about being above the law.

Patrick Fitzgerald/ticklethewire.com photo

Patrick Fitzgerald/ticklethewire photo

By James Podgers
ABA Journal
CHICAGO – Journalists should not put themselves above the law in their efforts to protect sources and confidential information, said Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, today at a program during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Prosecutors and reporters share an interest in gathering information that can help expose corruption and uncover wrongdoing by government officials and those who wield power, Fitzgerald said, but those interests do not always match.

“No one is against the right to know,” said Fitzgerald at the program sponsored by the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, “but we both have strong views about the best way to get to the truth in a particular case.” He emphasized that his comments were not intended to reflect policy positions of the Obama administration.

For Full Story

Showdown in the Motown: Detroit Reporter Invokes the Fifth and Refuses to Disclose Sources

An angry ex-federal prosecutor wants to know who in the government leaked damaging information about him. And he wants a reporter to tell him who talked. The reporter is refusing. The drama continues.

David Ashenfelter

Ex-Prosecutor Convertino/law office photo

Ex-Prosecutor Convertino/law office photo

By Joe Swickard
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter declined under oath this afternoon to reveal confidential sources in a legal standoff that pits journalistic principles against the obligation to testify under subpoena.
In declining to say who told the newspaper that a federal prosecutor was being investigated for his handling of a botched terrorism case, Ashenfelter invoked the First Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees press freedoms, and his Fifth-Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The newspaper released a statement saying Ashenfelter (far left photo)  took the Fifth because of concerns that he could face legal exposure if the sources are identified and charged with a crime for leaking the information. Richard Convertino, a former federal prosecutor who sought the information from Ashenfelter as part of a lawsuit against the government, contends that it was illegal for the information to be leaked. Convertino also contends that Ashenfelter, by refusing to give up his sources, is aiding anyone who committed a crime.
“Journalists ought not to have to resort to taking the Fifth Amendment, when the First Amendment should be enough to protect them,” the Free Press statement said. “But in light of the allegations made by Convertino in his lawsuit, it is appropriate for Ashenfelter to do so.”
It is not immediately clear what Steven M. Kohn, the attorney for Convertino, will do now.
“We will be seeking the appropriate relief,” said Kohn as he exited the deposition in Ann Arbor after a 55-minute session. Kohn said he may seek to ask a federal judge to hold Ashenfelter in contempt of court and seek other sanctions.
For Full Story

Read ticklethewire.com Column on Convertino