Just Asking: Media Outfoxed on Spate of Bizarre Shootings?
2013 04 16

By Russ Baker | WhoWhatWhy

Perhaps you’ve heard that a Fox News reporter could go to jail for protecting confidential sources in the Aurora, Colorado, mass shootings. This has generated a debate: are “liberal” media unwilling to go to bat on a Freedom of the Press issue for a reporter from a “conservative” outlet? This is an obvious entrant as the “hot button” topic of the week.

But there’s another, more nuanced issue that deserves consideration: what is the nature of the information leaked to reporters? And whose interests do the leaks serve?


James Holmes, mass shooting suspect


***

The defense attorneys for Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes want to know the sources for reporter Jana Winters’s assertion that Holmes’s notebooks contained violent ramblings and drawings. Winter could potentially face up to six months in jail if she does not identify her sources in law enforcement.

The other day, Fox News ran a segment alleging that the news profession has thus far been largely silent because Winter is with Fox. Even Fox’s resident liberal agreed that this reflected liberal bias.

And the executive editor of the conservative Washington Examiner posted this question on an email discussion thread for investigative journalists:

Has anybody on this listserv spoken up on the web, in print or on the air in defense of Jana Winter?

Thus, the story becomes another iteration of the common refrain that the “liberal media” is hypocritical. And the likely response is that the “liberal media” (which is not actually all that liberal, but that’s another story) will rush to prove that, no, it is not hypocritical or biased, and thus it will line up behind Jana Winter—particularly if a judge decides to compel her testimony or send her to jail.

What is missed in all this is an angle as important as freedom of the press. Here it is:

Are reporters used to disseminate information that benefits certain parties? Answer: of course they are. As important as the principle that journalists serve the people is the reality that many journalists build their careers around “scoops” that are essentially handouts from interested parties seeking to influence outcomes.

***

Most of us would probably agree that Jana Winter and all journalists need to be able to speak to sources on a confidential basis in order to ferret out information of vital public interest. But this reporter cannot help wondering: who gave Winter that information, and why?

To be sure, the decision to give it to Fox News rather than to some other outlet presumably was made in full awareness of Fox’s position in America’s propaganda hierarchy. Although Fox is currently the “opposition,” given that the Democrats hold the White House, the network still plays an important role in advancing the narratives of the corporate security state. It’s in that establishment’s interest to discourage deeper scrutiny of the alarmingly frequent litany of strange violent events that increasingly bedevil this country—and profoundly affect the national psyche.

Holmes’s attorneys wouldn’t be doing their job if they just rolled over and allowed the prosecution to settle their case in the court of public opinion, crystallized through the Fox franchise.

[...]

Read the full article at: whowhatwhy.com




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