David Gregory’s accusation of criminality against NSA leak author Glenn Greenwald, on yesterday’s edition of Meet The Press, has generated a lot of push-back from the world of journalism. Here’s a sampling:
From: Glenn Greenwald Is ‘Aiding and Abetting’ Democracy by John Nichols
Imagine if the Sunday morning talk shows had existed in 1776.
Surely, they would have welcomed the most widely read and provocative journalist of that historic year.
Perhaps the hosts would have asked Tom Paine if he felt that by penning articles calling out the hypocrisy of colonial officials—and incendiary pamphlets such as Common Sense—he was “aiding and abetting” the revolutionaries that King George III imagined to be “traitors.”
An intimidating question, to be sure.
Too intimidating, determined the founders of the American experiment.
After Paine’s compatriots prevailed in their revolutionary endeavor, they wrote into the Bill of Rights a protection of the ability of a free press to speak truth to power, to call out and challenge the machinations of those in government.
Unfortunately, this history is sometimes lost on contemporary Washington.
From: David Gregory tries to read Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian out of the journalism club by Jay Rosen’s PressThink
4. David Gregory’s phrase: To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden… renders the situation in a threatening way. His premise packs a punch. For the criminalization of journalism is most likely to happen when normal relationships with sources get called “aiding and abetting” by the state. That’s why so many journalists flipped out when similar language was used in a government affidavit about James Rosen, the Fox News reporter who was investigated in a separate leak case.
5. “He seeded his question with a veiled accusation of federal criminal wrongdoing, very much in the tradition of ‘how long have you been beating your wife.’” That’s how Erik Wemple of the Washington Post put it in his assessment of the same incident. “Mr. Gregory may have thought he was just being provocative, but if you tease apart his inquiry, it suggests there might be something criminal in reporting out important information from a controversial source,” wrote David Carr in the New York Times.
6. Gregory’s attempts to separate Greenwald from normal practice matter. Greenwald is “somebody who claims that he’s a journalist,” Gregory said. (Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t.) What we know is that Glenn is a polemicist, prosecutor for a point of view. “The question of who’s a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you’re doing,” he told Greenwald. “What is journalism?” is involved here, he said to Republican political consultant and NBC contributor Mike Murphy. (Murphy agreed.) Why did Gregory turn his table on Meet the Press into a “who’s a journalist” seminar if wasn’t trying to place Greenwald outside the club?
From: On David Gregory and Standing Up For Journalists’ Constitutional Rights by Trevor Timm
There are serious implications to questioning the status of journalists based on their opinions. Was Edward R. Murrow not a journalist when he reported on, and advocated against, the McCarthy witch hunts in the 1950s? What about when Walter Cronkite advocated, on CBS Evening News, for the end of the Vietnam War? Should his subsequent reports, perhaps influenced by his opinion, not be considered journalism?
When Sen. Claire McCaskill questioned Greenwald’s agenda in reporting these stories, Greenwald didn’t deny it. He responded, “Yes…we have an “agenda” – it’s called “transparency” – the same [agenda] Obama/2008 said he had.”
The reality is that there aren’t any journalists on earth that do not naturally have opinions on the subjects they cover. Some choose to hide those opinions behind the veil of “objectivity” as much as possible, others do not.
But regardless of one’s choice of reportage, no journalist loses his or her “objectivity” by defending the principles of transparency or the protections afforded to them under the First Amendment. Indeed, it is built into their job description.