As a former political journalist, I know the importance of protecting sources. But as media manipulation becomes ever more sophisticated, reporters are facing some unique situations and sometimes it seems as thought the tried and trusted ways of yore aren't sophisticated enough to cover what's happening today.
The on-going case in Washington over just who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, (a CIA operative married to a man who made the Bush White House angry) to the media is a good case in point. On the one hand, we have reporters from Time and the New York Times refusing to co-operate with prosecutors and turn over their sources. (Although Time has decided to turn over the reporter's notes, over the reporter's objections.) On the other hand, the original source of the leak, a well-known right-wing commentator, appears to be immune from prosecution, apparently because he's already cut a deal with the prosecutor.
But over the weekend, it emerged that the most likely source of the original leak was President Bush's chief political advisor Karl Rove. His lawyer has admitted that Rove was interviewed but denies "knowingly" leaking the information.
I admit I hadn't paid a lot of attention to this case as it's wound its way through the courts. But now its getting pretty interesting.
Today I found an interesting story about Rove's role, written by a friend and colleague, Bill Israel, published in Editor and Publisher. Although they're friends, his comments carry an ominous warning about the way the press is being used (and abused) by the Bush White House.
For a more complete backgrounder on Rove, including links to the main elements of this story, check out Rove's entry in Wikepedia.
UPDATE -- Wednesday afternoon, New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for refusing to give up her source in this case. And she didn't even publish a story!