22 November 2005

The Washington Post has More Leaks than a Secondhand Diaper

"Schadenfreude" is too generic -- there should be a special term for joy in the misery of members of the mainstream media. Besides, around here at least, generic schadenfreude generally waits until Friday. With the holidays fast approaching, however, I'm anticipating an avalanche of others' misery to be joyful about. Thus, a few days early perhaps, I'll pass along the following from yesterday's Best of the Web Today column from James Taranto:
The Washington Post's Bob Woodward is back in the news, having given testimony to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, whose investigation into the Valerie Plame kerfuffle is nearing the end of its second year.

. . . .

MediaBistro.com has an absolutely hilarious report that quotes extensively from "internal message boards" where Woodward's Post colleagues are either beating up on or defending Woodward. But what interests us isn't the internal bickering over Woodward; it is this post from Jonathan Yardley:
The comment of mine two paragraphs above has been leaked, presumably by someone in the newsroom, to the New York Times. Katharine Seelye called me an hour ago pressing for further comment. I declined, stressing that this is a confidential internal critique written solely for the news staff of TWP and refusing to authorize her to quote from it. She called back half an hour later to say that her editor had told her to go ahead and quote from the comment anyway. I told her I expected her to make plain that this is a confidential internal document and that she is quoting from it over the objections of the person who wrote it. She said she would. We'll see.

I hardly see any point in having critiques and comments if they are to be publicized outside the paper. How can we write candidly when candor merely invites violations of confidentiality? Many readers say they distrust us. Well, now I find myself wondering if we can trust each other.

Seelye did indeed call the post "confidential" and note that "Mr. Yardley objected strenuously to its being made public." But of course journalists quote from confidential internal documents all the time. Why should this be any different?

Well, presumably because Yardley expected that other journalists would afford him professional courtesy on the ground that respecting a news organization's internal confidentiality serves the higher goal of furthering the public's right to know.

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