Reporters Have Opinions, Too

13 March 2005

From the time this weblog began (January, 2002) I’ve been thinking about terms. Words have meaning. When two people communicate, their different definitions of words confuse the communication. If they have the patience to really understand one another, those differences get resolved so that they can communicate effectively.

In the practice of strategy and process improvement, facts are important. They are seldom in dispute. Once the facts are understood, a basis for proceeding gets just a little easier. The terms used to describe a process and its subsequent improvements have to be well-defined and understood.

That brings us to the ongoing debate between mainstream media (aka professional journalists, MSM, etc.) and those who write weblogs. Apple—and now the court—says a reporter who collects information and writes about it in a weblog should be forced to reveal the sources of the information. Traditional (MSM) journalists are “protected” from having to reveal their sources.

All of this gets tremendously fuzzy if a crime is committed. As one judge opined, “Why isn’t a journalist an equivalent of a fence for stolen property?” My opinion may change, but for now, I think the notion of “protected sources” needs to be re-examined more than the notion of whether newspaper writers and weblog writers are equals.

Opinions clearly influence reporters, writers, journalists—whatever. Once the facts are presented, few reporters can resist some editorial remark about them. Face reporters with a first amendment issue and they close ranks quickly. It’s time to question whether or not there are any circumstances under which a reporter should be compelled to reveal sources. What are the precedents?

Filed under: