Posted by Taylor Siedlik
A recent New York Times article written by Margaret Sullivan brought a concern to my attention that needs to be addressed: the duty of journalists to report leaks. Under the Obama administration, six “whistleblowers” have been prosecuted for leaking vital information to the public. Some of them have even been sent to jail. Given that the federal Espionage Act has only been used three times to prosecute leakers in 92 years, could this mean a change in the way journalists report leaks?
One of the first things a young journalist learns is that the point of journalism is seeking the truth and reporting it. This includes all truths, even those that could potentially anger some people. The public has a right and deserves to know the truth of what is happening both in our country and in the world. The journalists’ primary duty is to the people, and ensuring that news is accessible to all people.
I do understand where the Obama administration could be coming from in prosecuting leakers. Given the current state of our world, it could prove harmful if certain government protocol is reported.
North Korea especially is on our radar, after nullifying the armistice that has been in place since 1953. Protecting our country is more than important, but at what cost does it come if our people are stuck in the dark about what is happening news wise?
Even the Vatican is having its bouts with leaks. A butler for the pope, Paolo Gabriele, revealed to investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi high levels of dysfunction that placed some of the highest officials in the Catholic Church under strong scrutiny. This mission to discover the truth was highly dangerous for Gabriele, as the Vatican has a very strong security system powerful enough to read the lips of anybody within.
Finding the truth is one of the things journalists pride themselves on the most, sometimes at great risk to themselves and others. Does reporting on dangerous leaks fall into a journalists’ duty? It seems to me like journalists won’t stop anytime soon in reporting what needs to be reported, no matter the repercussions.