July 6, 2006

LOCUTION, LOCUTION, LOCUTION:

When Do We Publish a Secret? (DEAN BAQUET, editor, The Los Angeles Times, and BILL KELLER, executive editor, The New York Times, 7/01/06)

SINCE Sept. 11, 2001, newspaper editors have faced excruciating choices in covering the government's efforts to protect the country from terrorist agents. Each of us has, on a number of occasions, withheld information because we were convinced that publishing it could put lives at risk. On other occasions, each of us has decided to publish classified information over strong objections from our government.

Last week our newspapers disclosed a secret Bush administration program to monitor international banking transactions.


Setting aside the question of the press's obligation in such instances, it's worth noting how deceitful their language is there. Just as we went from having a U.S. Congress in October 2004 to a Republican Congress in November, so too do these guys dodge referring to the program as one run by the United States government. After all, they didn't just disclose a secret George Bush was keeping from he public but one that America was keeping from its enemies.

MORE:
Steiger, Downie Refused to Join Keller/Baquet Op-Ed (Joe Strupp, July 05, 2006, Editor & Publisher)

Managing Editor Paul Steiger of The Wall Street Journal and Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. of The Washington Post were both asked to be part of last weekend's unique joint Op-Ed piece by the editors of The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, which defended the publication of stories about the secret SWIFT bank monitoring program, E&P has learned. But each declined.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 6, 2006 2:14 PM
Comments

Reading that thing just about did me in, I tell ya.

It's got everything: Self-congratulation, misstatements of fact, phony attempts to seem like one of "us", the implication that they actually want the US to win this thing and the traditional misrepresentation of the First Amendment.

I especially liked how they went with the old "our government" and not "our country". See, they're not neutral or on the side of the terrorists, they're one of us, one of us poor benighted souls under the harsh reign of King George. It also stinks of the old and nasty "I love America but I hate the government" bumper sticker. It also implies that even if the article might have hurt the gov., they would never EVER hurt the country. An incredibly tone-deaf attempt to sound like a regular joe American who would never make that distinction.

As to the First Amendment thing, I just don't get it. The Consitution did not create the NYT or the Post or the LA Times. It did not charge a select group of media corporations with any mission. All it did was say that the citizenry can own presses and use them to publish whatever political tracts/pamphlets/attakcs they want. In other words, the press in "Freedom of the Press" actually meant physical printing presses. In England, there were strict laws against printing political tracts or what-have-you. The Founders wanted to empower the INDIVIDUAL to print pamphlets and things like the Federalist papers. They had no conception of huge enterprises like the NYTimes in mind.

Posted by: Pepys at July 6, 2006 9:03 PM

In the time of the Founders, pamphlets used to be fairly common -- men (and sometimes women) who had something to say would pay to have a few copies run off and hand them out to their friends and booksellers would flog some to the general public. Some of them became bestsellers. But it was something that you didn't have to be very rich or connected to do -- it was a fairly populist activity. The Internet is like pamphleteering, only even better. Curious how the Founders' true dream of freedom of the press -- that of the people to publish as they will -- is being manifested now.

Posted by: Lisa at July 7, 2006 10:01 AM
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