Money, meet mouth

Money, meet mouth

: There is a crapsquall brewing over Time Inc.’s decision (underplayed on their own site) to hand over reporter’s notes in the Plame case to the court. See Tom Watson and Chris Geidner and Staci Kramer’s thoughtful post here.

I want to add one thing: When I saw a picture of Time reporter Matthew Cooper with his wife, Mandy Grunwald (whom I met maybe once when I was at Time Inc.) and child, I thought of my own scene at the hearth and wondered: Would I have the courage to go to jail to protect a source? After watching Oz (not meant flippantly), I honestly wonder. I support the war in Iraq, but when I see pictures of the violence there or the fatherless families back home, I also have to wonder whether I would have the courage to go or, worse, to allow my son to. The only honest answer is that I don’t know.

Did Time cave or did Time try to protect its reporter? I have no idea.

Last night, I got email from a show to come on and talk about this and I said I couldn’t because, now that I’m working as a consultant for The Times, I think I’m in a conflict of interest. I’m also in a conflict of opinion; I don’t know what I think about shield laws now. This is what I said to the show’s producer:

I firmly believe that anyone and everyone can do journalism; I am a blog triumphalist, a proponent of citizens’ media. So there should not be a special privilege for people who are somehow officially accredited as journalists — not only because that excludes citizens who do journalism but also because it puts those credentialed at risk of having their credentials pulled by authorities. We do not want to find ourselves in that position.

Should there be a privilege? When everyone has it, there is also the danger that someone will claim privilege to hide criminal behavior: Someone will claim via a blog that they are doing journalism and have privilege and thus refuse to reveal a source of what they wrote in civil or criminal matters.

This had led many to say that privilege should not extend to criminal activities: that it is an obligation of citizens who know of criminal activity to reveal that. If that were the standard, then Miller would still not have privilege.

Frankly, I’m not sure where I come down. Ying-yangs:

I do believe in the necessity of privilege to enable the watchdogging of the powerful.

At the same time, I think we have grossly abused confidential sources in media and perhaps ruined privilege in the process.

I do think that if journalists have privilege then all citizens have privilege when they practice journalism, which now anyone can do: Anyone can publish.

I also believe there need to be limits — for example, regarding criminal activity. But then that, too, defangs privilege.

So the long and the short of it is is… and this is rare for a blogger or a TV guest to say: I don’t know.