It Burns Us


In an election year, it will be difficult for most congressmen to support shield legislation. The public perception is that such a law would further embolden the press to use confidential sources. The public is angry at The Times for publishing the financial surveillance story — a result that likely wasn’t considered sufficiently by The Times and now diminishes aspects for shield law legislation.

Yeah, “the public” is really pissed. Fifteen whole people are cheesed off. Fifteen pathetic people with homemade signs and a half-dozen confused onlookers who thought the Klan was accusing a day spa of promoting terrorism. That’s apparently code for “the public” lately.

When I was reporting in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Advocacy Group For Absolutely Everything, we had a joke: Two’s company, three’s a protest. But at least we knew it was a joke, and an affectionate one at that.

Then there’s this, which is just such monumental bullshit:

The Times’ editor defended the decision by saying basically that this story was no big deal and terrorists already knew their finances were being monitored. If running the story, however, ultimately dooms shield legislation, the journalistic community should ask The Times if that particular story was worth costing reporters shield protection for future stories of greater “public interest” significance.

Because you know what? The “journalistic community,” whatever the fuck that is, hasn’t exactly been able to find its balls with two hands and a corpse dog lately, so holding out hope for a unified statement of any kind is pretty pathetic.

And sometimes you just have to damn the torpedoes. If you sit in your office at your newspaper every day worried about blowback from every little thing you ever say or write, if you design your news coverage around never, ever, ever pissing anybody off, you might as well just call yourself the Ladies Home Journal and go home for the day. The “journalistic community,” by which I think this kitchen appliance means reporters, should be spending more time remembering why in the hell they got into journalism in the first place, and five’ll get you ten it wasn’t to protect themselves from ever being yelled at by the U.S. Senate.

So this prof’s opinion is … what? That the NYT should have saved its capital to burn it on something more important than a story about gross violations of civil liberties? That the NYT should have decided (as if it hasn’t done that enough in the past six years) that it should really keep its powder dry, because you never know, there might be another fight later on that’ll be more important.

The trouble is that once you get obssessed with dry powder, you can never have enough of it to feel safe using any.

Schmuck via Romenesko.