“A Secret The Media Kept”
Michael Berlin, a former U.N. correspondent for the New York Post and The Washington Post, has an interesting piece in today’s Washington Post on the media and–obviously–a secret they kept. The story itself [of six American officials who managed to escape being captured by Iranian militants during the seizure of the U.S. embassy in November 1979 – JHJ] is incredible; however, Berlin concludes by predictably connecting it to today’s situation with the press and argues rather illogically that it, “proves that reporters and news organizations can be trusted, en masse, to make the right call on security information they uncover.” Berlin then wonders:
Do I think that a thousand reporters could be trusted today to make the same call that we did in 1979? I wonder. Even back then, there was the fear that some rogue reporter would ignore the pleas and go with the story. In today’s journalism world, I fear that some blogger or counterculture ideologue using journalism as a political tool rather than as a mechanism for dispensing straight information, would make the wrong call. I hope I’m wrong about that.
With all due respect to Berlin, every example of journalism being used as a political tool that I can think of has been by journalists rather than bloggers (or “counterculture ideologues”). At this point, I am more worried about the Dan Rathers and New York Times of the world allowing their own biases to slip into their reporting and defining what is in the “public interest” despite warnings from the government.
Although, that being said, Berlin does raise some interesting questions about the ethics of bloggers in regard to the publication of information that could be potentially harmful. Currently, I’d say that it’s largely a non-issue because only a handful bloggers have the wherewithal of the average journalist and/or sources privy to that type of information. But this is something that is changing and the question is whether bloggers will be able to show the proper restraint when it comes to the publication of harmful information rather than go for the scoop.