(As usual, Brad DeLong gets credit for spotting this one)
Just to recap, I've been complaining
(whining, moaning, bitching, etc.) about the state of journallism
for a while. Many of those complaints assume (explicitly or
implicitly) that journalism is forming a dangerously insular and
cohesive group identity (I'm writing outside my field so my
terminology might be a bit off -- if a social scientist out there has
any notes, I'm open to suggestions).
Assuming I'm on to something here, one
of the things we would expect is an ethical code that has notably
different standards of behavior inside and outside of the group.
Intra-group crimes (like plagiarism where the primary victim is
another journalist) would be viewed as grave while offenses against
subjects and readers would be seen as less serious. This difference would be particularly notable where journalists and non-journalists are mutually responsible for an offense.
Which takes us to the example of the
day. As you probably know, the recent health care decision has
produced as usual amount of leak-driven coverage. This has deeply
offended Charles Lane of the Washington Post. Here's are some of the
phrases that Lane uses when discussing the leaks and leakers:
"Cassius and Brutus inside the
court, creeping up behind the chief justice with their verbal
"shame on the treacherous
And here's how Lane talks about Jan
Crawford, the reporter who published the leaks,
"a fine journalist"
"kudos to Jan Crawford for a nifty
According to Lane, Crawford's story
damages the Supreme Court and misleads the reader, but the
responsibility is apportioned so that all of the blame falls on the
sources for passing the story on to the reporter. He even goes
further and praises the reporter for passing the story on to us.
I suppose it might be possible to come
up with a situation where two parties knowingly work together to
produce something bad for society and yet one party shoulders all of
the blame while the other is praiseworthy but Lane is no where near
making that case here, nor does he seem to realize that he needs to.