Monday, February 27, 2006

NY Times decision justified

Whether or not to publish or to hold the NSA wiretapping story was a decision to be made by the New York Times alone. I’m certain that there were many factors discussed by the paper before making the decision. How can you pass up on a big story like that? Because your city was forever affected by the 9-11 attack. You want to do everything in your power (and perhaps beyond your power) to prevent another attack. This is exactly what President Bush did. The difference between the NY Times and President Bush is that Bush gets in trouble for not disclosing the fact and there can be no legal difficulties for the NY Times for not disclosing.

The White House asked the NY Times to not publish the article. If I were in the crunch of the newspaper’s decision of running the article while weighing the risks of national security and privacy in a time that there was tremendous concern about national security, I would have made the decision not to run. Waiting for a better time to run the article when the concerns are not so deep is also appropriate.

I believe that the article was delayed in the interest of national security rather than the papers own interest. In short, I applaud the decision by the New York Times to delay the printing of the article.

1 comment:

Nancy Williams said...

This is exactly the kind of "thinking out loud" I'm hoping to see more of on our blog, so thanks for posting this, Smokey.

There's another angle on the effects of the New York Times' decision to suppress wiretap story. Here's an excerpt and a link to the column by Norman Solomon, Journalists Should Expose Secrets, Not Keep Them:

Dec. 26, Miami Herald columnist Edward Wasserman, wrote: "One of the more durable fallacies of ethical thought in journalism is the notion that doing right means holding back, that wrong is averted by leaving things out, reporting less or reporting nothing. When in doubt, kill the quote, hold the story -- that's the ethical choice. But silence isn't innocent. It has consequences. In this case, it protected those within the government who believe that the law is a nuisance, that they don't have to play by the rules, by any rules, even their own."

While many journalists seem eager to downplay the importance of the Times' refusal to publish what it knew without long delay, Wasserman offers clarity: "Didn’t the delay do harm? We know that thousands of people were subject to governmental intrusion that officials thought couldn't be justified even under a highly permissive set of laws. We also know that because knowledge of this illegality was kept confined to a small circle of initiates, the political system's response was postponed more than a year, and its ability to correct a serious abuse of power was thwarted. I don't know what the Times' brass was thinking. Maybe they just lost their nerve. Maybe they didn’t want to tangle with a fiercely combative White House right before an election. But I do believe that withholding accurate information of great public importance is the most serious action any news organization can take. The reproach -- 'You knew and you didn't tell us?' -- reflects a fundamental professional betrayal."