Resident Expert: Media’s Job

When someone you know goes to jail, the first thing you want to know is the alleged crime — which is more damaging and embarrassing than the jail visit itself. Before assumptions are made, this should be looked at because there are a few situations when people can go to the slammer without doing anything wrong. One such situation is when a person does something that is legally or morally right, believing whole-heartedly that it’s a good thing, yet the individual still goes to jail.

More often than not, journalists are in this situation. In other countries, journalists have been jailed, or worse, for reporting the truth. I believe with all my heart that people condemned by law can still be innocent. Sometimes journalists can inadvertently get in trouble just by doing their jobs.

The media have a duty in society to inform the public, and that is what a journalist believes and strives to accomplish. This responsibility is a fundamental service expected in today’s world. Protecting a confidential source’s identity is one part of it.

It’s a journalist’s moral obligation to protect a secret source. Judith Miller was jailed 85 days for obstruction of justice. She refused to reveal a source of hers after she revealed the identity of a CIA agent. Miller was doing what she believed in her heart was right.

For you non-journalists out there, would you sacrifice an accomplishment or reveal a secret in your line of work just because someone called the action immoral? Would biology majors not publish discoveries if someone said not to? Would an engineering major give up a secret patent for a new invention? No matter how important it is to a government or its national security, reporters shouldn’t have to reveal their sources involving a topic or hold back an article about a controversial issue.

— Paul Szaniawski

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