Media Blog

Promising Confidentiality to a Non-Source?

Tom Maguire nails it:

Dana Linzer of the WaPo answered questions about sacked CIA officer Mary McCarthy in an online WaPo chat. I am still spinning from this one:

Tokyo, Japan: Hello, Ms. Linzer-You said earlier “we don’t know exactly what was said and to whom “. That isn’t entirely correct. Dana Priest would know the nature of her contacts with McCarthy, and Dana Priest is a Washington Post reporter. Why can’t she just tell us? After all, she seems to feel comfortable exposing secrets. What are the ethics on this?
Dafna Linzer: Hi, you’re up late. The compact reporters enter into with sources for information that they wouldn’t get otherwise is often one of confidentiality, especially on issues of national security. That is the pact that Dana entered into with her sources.

But… but… if Ms. McCarthy was *not* a source for Dana Priest, then there is no compact, yes? Why can’t Ms. Priest simply say, “Although I will never discuss my sources, I will occasionally discuss my non-sources; in this case, Mary McCarthy was not a source to me in my Pulitzer Prize winning secret prison reporting.”

In an item posted earlier today, Howard Kurtz dismissed those calling for Priest to come clean, writing, “It’s called protecting confidential sources.” But what about non-sources? Is Priest refusing to comment on the sourcing for her prisons story in any way whatsoever? Kurtz has the access. If he could elaborate on the statement he made today to address also this issue of “non-source confidentiality,” I’d link to it.

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