June 23, 2021

BUT IT WON’T BE THE LAST: Journalists Hit New Low by Betraying Source.

Given the left’s hatred of [Tucker] Carlson – who is their current Bogeyman No. 2, after Donald Trump – and its habit of reporting fake news, Smith’s article could be a smear aimed at stirring up conflict on the right and problems for Carlson with his employer. That thought would not have occurred to me even five years ago, but that’s where we are.

If Carlson does dish dirt off the record, [Ben] Smith’s piece is a yet another new low for our increasingly partisan press. As my RealClearInvestigations colleague Tom Kuntz observed, “Protecting confidential sources is, of course, one of the bedrocks of journalism. The free flow of information depends on people being able to share hard truths without jeopardizing their careers or lives.”

It is why journalists have gone to jail to protect their sources. Outing Carlson sends the message that trust is dead in American journalism. No source is safe if reporters decide they don’t like or agree with them. Today it’s the Fox News anchor, tomorrow it’s the whistleblower who uncovered malfeasance in the Biden administration.

Still, the protection of confidentiality is not ironclad. All bets are off when a source lies. For example, false disclosures from dishonest anonymous sources were a prime driver of the bogus Trump/Russia scandal that dominated the news for several years. Smith’s paper was a prime dumping ground of misinformation, as was the publication he edited before coming to the Times, BuzzFeed, publisher of the now-infamous and largely fabricated Steele dossier. Smith also oversaw the seminal but deeply misleading BuzzFeed work of Ali Watkins (now also at the Times) that commenced the years-long media smearing of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Kuntz argues, “When sources engage in gross deception on a matter of such import, even committing national security crimes in the process, the news media involved should honor their higher duty – to their readers or viewers – to expose the malfeasance and correct the record.”

Even as the Times outs Carlson – who is not accused of misleading anyone – it continues to protect those who perpetrated devastating frauds upon the nation. That silence is a scandal; instead of honoring trust, it betrays it. If Smith truly cares about the fate of American journalism, he should insist that his editors identify the anonymous sources of their many debunked stories during the Trump years.

Just think of the media as Democratic Party operatives with bylines, and it all makes sense.

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