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WaPo: What's a Press Corps To Do? (press considering revolt against WH) [View All]

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grasswire Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-18-05 08:06 PM
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WaPo: What's a Press Corps To Do? (press considering revolt against WH)
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This is the most important thing on the media you will read this month. It's Dan Froomkin's report of the National Press Club's panel on Bush administration secrecy. /

The panel was called "Confronting the Seduction of Secrecy: Toward Improved Access to Government Information on the Record," and it featured a head-table heavy with Washington bureau chiefs past and present as well as advocates for aggressive, accountability-oriented journalism. There was much talk, on the one hand, about what panelists called the unprecedented secrecy with which the Bush administration operates; and on the other hand, about the need for reporters to occasionally grant confidentiality to sources who are taking a risk by exposing information that the public has a right to know.

But sticking in pretty much everyone's craw was the persistence of those maddening White House briefings where a senior administration official stands in front of an auditorium full of reporters, says nothing remotely controversial, and yet insists on being cloaked in anonymity.

From the reporters' perspective, there is no excuse for it. The anonymity doesn't engender frankness; all it does is hinder accountability and undermine journalistic credibility. But what to do?

Bill Kovach, director of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, described the short-lived revolt he tried to lead when he was Washington Bureau chief of the New York Times in the 1980s. "A few other reporters joined us at first when we asked briefings be kept open and left the room if they were not. But the support didn't last long," he said. "The main argument from other journalists was that they would surrender their independence if they took part in such group actions," he said.

But Kovach said that in this era of spin and misinformation, it's time to head to the ramparts again. "And maybe if we're lucky we can find that cooperation and collaboration are not threats to our independence but are the key to strengthen the value and the appeal of a journalism of verification to the American people."

Tom Curley, president and chief executive of the Associated Press, agreed: "We have to be able to walk out of the room when somebody goes off the record."

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