Monday, January 07, 2002

Journalistic Integrity
Leaving aside the question of whether that's an oxymoron in this day and age, I feel obligated to say something about Vanessa Leggett.

Ms Leggett has succeeded in outliving the grand jury which ordered her to surrender her notes to federal prosecutors. Her case was never tried, she was never convicted of anything: She was just held in jail for five months, then freed because the penalty clock ran out.

Happy as I am to know she's been freed, something still bothers me, from the Dallas News article:
Federal prosecutors contend Leggett is not a journalist and does not fall under the First Amendment's protection of the press. Leggett has not published a book or news articles.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld her incarceration, noting that neither she nor any other journalist has a qualified privilege protecting confidential sources.

Now here's a quote from somewhere else:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Now, where does it say that a journalist, or anyone, is exempt from laws otherwise in effect when she is gathering information for publication?

Ms Leggett's case is not a First Amendment issue. It doesn't matter if she's a journalist (whatever that is) or not. There is no "right" to protect sources.

I hate saying this. Journalism, after all, is what my degree is in. I want the writer to be the Good Guy. Unfortunately, I have to fall back on an old cliche: You knew the job was dangerous when you took it. Bravo for standing up for your principles, Vanessa -- but you broke the law. If you didn't know that, then you aren't a journalist.

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