Thursday, July 21, 2005

MSM Does Not Need or Deserve Federal Source Shield

Captain Ed of Captain’s Quarter’s has a good post up on the proposed federal Media Source Shield:


The basis for the shield is that anonymous sources are important in breaking important stories and thus a corner stone of the constitutional right of a free press. I agree that anonymous sources “CAN” be a valuable tool in breaking big news and important news that the American people need to know. Watergate is of course the benchmark used for such a point but there are thousands of lower profile stories that also give credibility to the argument that anonymous sources are important to new coverage.

That said, there are at least an equal number of examples where anonymous sources have been made up, their information has been slanted, or have proven to be simply wrong. Based on the track record of today’s MSM and how they have used these sources the last thing that their credibility and history merit is a federal “source shield” law.

The press should continue to use anonymous sources when they have confidence that the source is credible, is providing credible information, and that the use of the source is justified given the story. They should however be accountable to the law of the land just like any other citizen. If a law is broken and a journalist has written a story using an anonymous source that claims to have informatiion related to the crime and are called on to provide that information in a formal hearing, then they should have to do just that.

Giving the MSM a federal source shield given the track record they have with such sources is like, rewarding a puppy who has just had an accident in the living room with a tasty dog treat. Does an institution that only 28% of Americans trust and believe is credible deserve such a far reaching safe guard? Of course not………..Aside from the fact that today’s media has a track record unworthy of such a legal exemption, it’s just a bad law.

I’m not a constitutional expert in any way, but to elevate one single entity of our citizenship above the law and subpoena power of law enforcement can’t be constitutional. Public opinion has and will continue to protect journalist from unjustified subpoena to divulge their sources when not justified, but excluding law enforcement to do so in cases that merit such action can’t be constitutional. It’s law enforcements job to determine when such a need is present and it’s the courts and the public’s job to ensure they are correct in their needs analysis.

Perhaps that is the point that many in the MSM need to hear and understand although it has been staring them in the face for weeks on the Judith Miller matter. If the public perceives an unjust request by law enforcement on the source matter we will jump in as will the courts. If not then you should conform to the law and do your duty as a law abiding citizen.. That is the answer to the question they ask, “why is the public mostly quiet on the Miller case”? Because the majority thinks she should obey the law and testify, so do the courts including the Supreme Court. This matter does not merit a federal source protection shield and very few ever have…………….