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Witness Dying Journalism’s Last Gasp In America


By James Donahue

July 2005


Journalism in America has been dying for a long time. As a retired journalist I have not been silent about this. But Time Magazine’s decision last week to bend over to a U.S. District Judge’s order to force reporters to reveal their sources of a controversial story involving a CIA identity disclosure is putting the final nail in the coffin.


The spineless decision by Time’s managers and editors to submit to a ruling by Judge Thomas Hogan to turn over the notes by reporter Matthew Cooper in the Valerie Plame case has left Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller twisting slowly in the wind. And it has destroyed the ability of all reporters in the United States to do their jobs.


What source will dare to speak secretly to a news reporter if he or she knows that the reporter cannot, or will not protect their identity? And trust me, without this kind of action, especially when covering government activities, a reporter is not worth a grain of salt. All he can deliver will be “official” government handouts and no more. You will never know what is really going on.


Now Cooper and Miller are threatened with jail for sticking to their guns and refusing to testify in the case. Without the support of the big guns at Time Magazine, their fate seems almost assured. Either they give in and give the court what it demands, or they spend 120 days in lock-up.


A U.S. Justice Department prosecutor has identified the sickness that prevails in the minds of government leadership in one of the court filings: “Journalists are not entitled to promise confidentiality – no one in America is.”


Indeed, crooked politicians with something to hide would like Americans to believe this. But the truth is, Journalists have been silently protected from revealing their news sources for years. Because it has never been written in stone, we have had to stand up for this privilege, and some of us spent time in jails in defiance of judicial efforts to force our mouths open. But this matter is so important to our ability to gather news, we have remained silent as long as there have been newspapers.


Over the years I have been ordered to testify in court proceedings. Each time it happened, my editor furnished legal counsel and we limited any testimony to published information only. Personal notes were off limits. What I contended with never reached the high political levels of the issues facing Time Magazine and the New York Times.


The Plame case, finding the source of a government leak that led to television news personality Robert Novac revealing Plame’s name as a CIA operative in his column, is a high pressure issue because the guilt seems to reach into high places . . . some say it may even have been the office of the secret unelected manipulator Karl Rove.


Oddly enough, Novac seems to be escaping any of the notoriety attached to this controversy. If anybody knows who leaked the name it will be Novac, not workers for newspapers and magazines digging for facts from second-hand sources.


What is going on here?


It appears that the organized criminals that have taken over our government have another agenda here. That is to destroy the ability of journalists to look behind doors at the secret going’s on of government.


With the help of Judge Hogan and the unwillingness of Time Magazine to back up its reporter, the crooks are coming very close this week to destroying the last vestiges of real American journalism forever.



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