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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Hold On, Josh

Posted by on July 10 at 15:18 PM

I agree that Newseek’s scoop is huge, so huge that it’s worth linking to again, here. And I think it’s also worth noting that the writer of the Newseek piece, Michael Isikoff, is the famous investigative journalist who first uncovered the impeachment-inducing relationship between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Now Isikoff is busy uncovering the relationship between Presidential right-hand-man Karl Rove and the illegal outing of a CIA agent. Perhaps Isikoff senses he’s onto something equally huge, something “Worse Than Watergate,” as Frank Rich writes in today’s New York Times.

But I think Josh gets the significance of Isikoff’s source wrong. Isikoff’s source seems clearly to be someone in the editorial department at Time Magazine someone who is upset at Time Inc.’s decision to hand over the notes of Time writer Matthew Cooper (and by extension, Cooper’s source) to the special prosecutor investigating the CIA agent outing. Now that the upsetting deed has been done by Time Inc., the Time editorial source is giving a big scoop on the story to Time’s main competitor, Newsweek the ultimate act of journalistic vengeance.

This is analagous to a disgruntled Seattle Weekly employee leaking documents to The Stranger in protest of some upsetting decision by the Weekly’s parent company, Village Voice Media. Or a leak by someone at The Seattle Times to the Seattle P-I for similar reasons, or by someone at the NYT to The Washington Post. It’s taking a moderate risk by using your arch rival to embarrass and piss off your parent company. (If caught, the leaker at Time might lose his or her job, but I doubt jail time would be involved, and given the percieved righteousness of the Time leaker, I’m sure another job in journalism would be waiting for him or her.)

So Josh, I don’t think the situation is analagous to that of a government source who needs to commit an illegal act in order to get an important truth published a source who then faces a lost job plus jail time if his or her identity is revealed by a reporter who has promised the source anonymity.