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The Sources Of Trouble

By Art Buchwald
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page C08

The National Press Club bar was crowded at 6 p.m., a time when all honest reporters are relaxing after a hard day's work.

The main topic was not Martha Stewart's time in the slammer. We had discussed it every night for a week and no one had anything new to say.

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The subject that evening was: Should reporters be jailed for not revealing their sources? I can't tell the names of the people at the bar because that would be revealing my sources. I will identify them only as colors.

This is how it went.

Orange said, "What I don't understand is why Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wants to send Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time magazine to prison if they refuse to testify in front of a grand jury, but as far as we know he didn't threaten Robert Novak with jail for printing the name of the CIA agent, Valerie Plame, in his column."

Blue said, "Novak is now a household name."

"The worst part of it is Judith Miller didn't write anything about Plame," White said. "Fitzgerald wanted to know the sources on other stories she wrote. The same goes for Cooper."

"Fitzgerald is just fishing," said Pink. "Special prosecutors are known to do that."

Green added, "As Hamlet said, 'There's the rub.' If reporters have to reveal their sources, whistle-blowers won't talk to us."

Red said, "Deep Throat would refuse to meet in a garage with Woodward and Bernstein, and Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman would never have been in the movie."

Red took a swig of his beer. "Well," he said, "the most frightening part of this is that the government wants the courts to decide if reporters have the same immunity as priests, doctors and lawyers."

"Of course we do," Blue said. "Our job is to report the news fairly and objectively, and we can't do that if we can't quote someone off the record."

"They don't tell you in journalism school that if you do a good job you can go to jail," I said.

Black said, "When it comes to leaks, the government is still our best source. They usually tell you something that will hurt the guy in the next office."


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