Guest Blog: Savana Switzer Defends Journalists Under Fire


Resident toy reviewer and all around great young woman Savana Switzer offers us this guest blog. It isn’t about porn, but I think it’s worth a read anyway. For Savana’s other work, check out the Toy Review Section of the site. As always, I am certain she would enjoy any feedback you guys can offer.
Savana Switzer Writes:

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Journalists Exposing Crime Face War with Uncle Sam

Contrary to what some of you may expect, this blog won’t be dedicated to the shocked dismay I experienced at realizing Aurora Snow had been snubbed in a big way (no, I think I just about covered that) but rather something of an equally outrageous nature: the escalating witch hunt against journalists protection of unnamed sources.
Specifically, this calls to mind the Supreme Court decision to reject protection of the two New York Times journalists at the heart of a probe into leaked information regarding a planned government raid on two different Muslim charities five years ago. However, this too should not be terribly surprising, as the prosecutor, U.S. attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has already secured previous victories of the same vein. Yesterday’s decision marked the second such loss that the embattled newspaper had sustained at the hands of Fitzgerald, including the Valerie Plame debacle.
Although the Supreme Court has never squarely ruled that the news media has a 1st Amendment right to protect its confidential sources, journalists have an obligation to protect their sources. Such practices are supported by the implied powers of the First Amendment, according to Times attorney Floyd Abrams, a standard that was, until recently, accepted.
Now, however, it appears as though the Big Brother has essentially declared (without first asking permission from Congress, of course) an act of war on the fourth estate for attempting to deliver the truth in print. This begs the question of why community service is now being punishable by jail time.
Consider the not-yet-forgotten steroid scandal plaguing America’s favorite pastime, major league baseball, a story broken by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wade and Lance Williams. In exchange for bringing attention to the vice undermining the integrity of the game, each man is being handsomely rewarded with the prospect of 18 months in jail for refusing to disclose the story’s sources.
Unfortunately, this is typical of the government’s failure to see the big picture and instead getting hung up on the details. The long-term implications of such practices are being carelessly tossed aside and never even considered. What makes the precedent being set against reporters so dangerous is how much it threatens the ability of all journalists to protect the sources that provide them with the information the pubic should have. If confidential sources fear forced disclosure (and thereby consequences or retaliation) information will stop coming. And as USA Today put it, “The real loser then will be the public.”
While there certainly should be standards in place to prevent the leak of information that could directly put the company in jeopardy, it is important to understand that virtually none of the cases engulfed in the present uproar fit that description. At best, the prosecutors involved have a “compelling interest,” in the information, as described by the appellate judge in today’s Times decision. Such a tangled web leaves much open to definition of what might support a “compelling interest.”
Additionally, it is also important to remember another compelling interest–that of the media. The media, known as the fourth estate, serves as the watchdog keeping the other three estates in line, in order and above all else, in service to the people of this country. They serve as the first and last line of protection for the citizens that often turn on them for simply doing their jobs–the jobs that keep us, in more than one way, safe. And yet, as these recent legal decisions demonstrate, there exists no such safety for the journalist.
Currently, there is no federal shield that protects the confidence with reporters. As a result of this oversight, prosecutors and private lawyers have demanded–successfully–the names of confidential sources in more than 35 federal cases in just the last three years as both prosecutors and judges become more emboldened by higher precedents that prefer to dole out punishment to the messengers as opposed to the criminals. The sweeping irony in the Fainaru-Wade/Williams case, for example, is that both men could end up serving more jail time than the crooks who already plead guilty in the steroid case to begin with.
What this means of course that a resurrection of the rhetoric used to create a bipartisan measure introduced in Congress last year is needed to quell the legal strikes against journalists, as well as a strong bid to preserve the power of reporters as governmental and societal watchdogs. With a new, more liberal Congress, this enlightened perspective is not inconceivable, and would go a long way in winning support with anxious citizens longing for a reassurance of honesty in an administration colored by deceit.
Many of the reporters at the center of the disclosure battles have stated they have no intention of revealing the identities of their sources, despite knowing that such stubborn determination could lead to their incarceration.
It would be to our great benefit if all journalists could remain so steadfast in doing the right thing. Not all can, and understandably so. The truth is, journalists should not have to choose between their ethical obligation to protect sources or facing time behind bars.

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