Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Media Gets Rove Rove Gets Media

It's only fitting that, as Karl Rove departs the White House (of his own free will, sans shackles or even a single indictment), news of media's failing attempts to protect anonymous sources is also in the spotlight.

While pundits argue over the "legacy" of Karl Rove, the true legacy of the Rove era is almost certain to be the media's willingness to cut its own throat in a failed attempt to "get" him. It wasn't so long ago they were hysterical over anonymous leaks, more than happy to give up their own sources, and demand government force others to do the same.

Now the chickens have come home to roost, as the same federal judge who convicted Libby has the gall to assume a precedent was set in the process. Media is in the uncomfortable position of realizing they didn't want every anonymous source revealed, just the ones that had potential to hurt the Bush administration.

Now is a good time to revisit Jacob Weisberg's warning, delivered in Slate in 2005:

Already, Fitzgerald's investigation has proved a disaster for freedom of the press and freedom of information. Reporters, editors, and publishers have been put on notice about the legal risk of using blind sources, which most consider an essential tool of news-gathering. Any ambiguity about a press privilege under federal law has been resolved, not in favor of the media. According to some anecdotal accounts, journalists' failure to fully protect their sources in the Plame case has already chilled official leaks to reporters. Should Fitzgerald win convictions under the espionage law or Section 641, any conversations between officials and journalists touching on classified information could come become prosecutable offenses. That would turn the current chill into permafrost.

No one cared back then, when getting Karl Rove was more important than anything. Now, when media asks itself "How did we get to this point?," it need only look in the mirror for the answer.

That is indeed rich...and chocolatey.

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