Phi Beta Cons

J-School Deans’ Illogic

The deans of five prominent journalism schools took to the pages of the Washington Post yesterday to defend the New York Times’s decision to publish details of the formerly secret government program keeping tabs on terrorist financing. The deans at Harvard, Northwestern, Columbia, USC, and Cal Berkeley opined that the U.S. government had not offered sufficient arguments against divulging the secrets, and that the Times–along with several other papers–was justified in printing the story:

“In the case of the stories about financial data, the government’s main concern seemed to be that the hitherto cooperative banks might stop cooperating if the Times disclosed the existence of their financial tracking system. So far, that apparently has not happened.”
The qualifiers “so far” and “apparently” indicate that perhaps even they don’t fully believe their own dubious assertion. Of course it’s quite possible that they based this opinion on information gathered from one of their many unnamed sources.  To be fair, however, the deans did concede that there are some circumstances under which the press should muzzle itself:
“There are situations in which that chance should not be taken. For instance, there was no

justification for columnist Robert D. Novak to have unmasked Valerie Plame as a covert CIA officer.”
In other words, it’s just fine to disclose top-secret programs aimed at monitoring terrorist blood money, but it’s unacceptable to print facts to rebut the false claims of an anti-war hack.  With this brand of “logic” dominating the leadership at our nation’s finest journalism schools, it’s no wonder that the media has been, and continues to be, overwhelmingly partisan and agenda-driven.

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