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In the Matt Cooper Case, Chilling Implications

The Time piece co-authored by Cooper quoted Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. With Libby's approval, NBC's Tim Russert and The Post's Glenn Kessler recently testified about conversations with him, saying no confidential sources were involved.

Abrams argues that "journalists who report about newsworthy events -- particularly about the functioning of government itself -- often need to provide confidentiality to be assured of receiving information."

Retiring columnist Jack Anderson, above, has denounced his partner of five years. (1972 Photo)

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So: Should Cooper go to jail? It's hard to see what purpose would be served by imprisoning a reporter who is determined not to betray his pledge of confidentiality. The real targets, after all, are the government officials who may have illegally blown Plame's cover. But it is Cooper who may get the first glimpse of a new, more chilling legal terrain for journalists.

Curtain Call?

When an ailing Jack Anderson announced his retirement last month, that seemed to mark the end of his syndicated Washington Merry-Go-Round column. But his partner Douglas Cohn later announced that he would continue it with his co-author, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift.

Now, for the first time, the 81-year-old journalist, disabled by Parkinson's disease, has broken his silence. In a frail voice, Anderson, who uses a wheelchair, said from his Bethesda home that he does not want Cohn to continue the column because "he has proven to be untrustworthy, I regret to say." The column should survive only "if my heirs feel they can continue in some way."

Cohn has been battling with Kevin Anderson, the Pulitzer Prize winner's son and attorney, who says he is fighting to protect "Dad's legacy." Although he has no "personal vendetta against Doug," Kevin Anderson says, "Washington Merry-Go-Round was never a political commentary think piece. It was a hard-news, investigative reporting column." He acknowledged, however, that his father had virtually no involvement in the column for the past three years as Cohn published it under a joint byline.

"It had always been the intent that I would continue the column when he retired," says Cohn, Anderson's partner since 1999, who says he has received only two cancellations from the approximately 100 newspapers still carrying the once-ubiquitous column. He is marketing it after longtime distributor United Feature Syndicate announced the column's demise. Cohn likens his situation to Anderson's fight to keep the column after the death of its founder, Drew Pearson.

The McLean businessman, who is president of a software company, obtained the elder Anderson's signature on a document that he contends signed over the column to him. Kevin Anderson says the signature was "coerced" and provided a document showing he has power of attorney for his father.

Cohn blames the dispute in part on "political differences" between himself and Anderson's more conservative family. But Kevin Anderson says he and his eight siblings have a broad range of views. Clift says she has been the column's "ghostwriter" and would like to continue its "proud tradition" if the battle can be resolved.

Asked if it was hard to abandon the column, Anderson says: "Of course. It's been my life."

Doping Up the Paper

The subject: Olympic athletes using drugs. The headline: "How They Will Cheat." The illustration: a bulked-up figure with a dark complexion.

All of which was a dangerous combination for the Miami Herald, which is why Editor Tom Fiedler killed the paper's Tropical Life section last Tuesday.

The juxtaposition "could have been perceived by readers as being racially insensitive," Fiedler told the Associated Press.

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