May 8, 2002


Going Post-al, Part Two: Susan Schmidt retaliated against her critics. Why won't the Post come clean? (Brendan Nyhan, 5.7.02, American Prospect)
At this point, it's almost a cliché to say that the media loves to dish out scrutiny of powerful institutions -- except for itself. But like many clichés, this one has a grain of truth.

Case in point: the continuing controversy over the actions of Susan Schmidt, a reporter at The Washington Post who is notorious in Washington circles for allegedly serving as the primary conduit for leaks from Ken Starr's Office of the Independent Counsel. As I reported early last month, two readers of the Web site (MWO) sent Schmidt angry e-mail from their work accounts in late March, prompting her, they claim, to retaliate by forwarding the e-mails to their respective employers. [...]

As I argued previously, while it may have been inappropriate for Rentschler and the other MWO reader (an associate at a prominent New York law firm) to send political email from their work accounts, Schmidt's response is unsettling. Vitriolic email from readers is part of the job in the modern media age. Her first responsibility as a reporter is to basic principles of journalism such as serving readers and promoting open debate on issues before the public -- not intimidating her critics into silence.

Here again is a story I just don't get. If these guys wrote letters that they are ashamed to have their employers read, how is that Ms Schmidt's fault? If they want to terrorize authors and reporters, why don't they use Hotmail accounts or other personal accounts, instead of their work email? And what expectation of privacy do you have when you send hate mail to a public figure? Posted by Orrin Judd at May 8, 2002 7:57 AM
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