Being a journalist means getting the story by doing whatever is necessary. Even if that means you are accepting information from people anonymously in order to get them to agree to give up that information. It makes since that some people want their name or face removed from a story, in order to make sure that they are separated from not only the writer but the content itself. That being said, we have to look into why sources might want to be confidential. Let’s say you work in a hospital and you notice that the drinking water is contaminated. You mention it to your boss but he/she doesn’t seem concerned, as a result of the contaminated water more and more patients are becoming ill. You might want to let this information out in order to tell the general public about this issue but you would not want to be named in the story because you would face repercussions at your job. Then again you could also be someone that was recently let go from the hospital and you could harbor some resentment at the job. If you are able to confidentially help release false information you are free from any repercussion that may happen because you are no longer accountable for your actions. The idea behind confidentiality is protecting people while they give information, but in doing this you are inherently hiding. Releasing statements that were given by a confidential source means that those facts will be harder to check. Other journalists or people involved cannot go back to that person in order to hear what happened because they are hidden.
After reading the section about press and privilege within “Freedom for the Thought we Hate” by Anthony Lewis, the first thing I thought about was the movie Legally Blond. The premise of the main court case is the fact that this fitness guru will not give up her alibi to anyone but this one lawyer because it will out her as being involved in liposuction. On one hand, we can view this as a personal right of the women that is considered a fitness guru. But on the other, it is clear that this could ruin her company because the services that she is selling are not fool proof. If she can become overweight or be seen as fat, then she will lose the majority of her client base. If Legally Blond was a journalist instead of a lawyer the conversation about privacy would be more prevalent. Doesn’t the public deserve to know that they are getting their exercise classes from a woman that does not fully believe in the natural results of exercising? Now of course this example lacks some components of serious malpractice, but what if it was a case about life or death?
In the reading by Lewis, we go over a case in which a journalist tried to conceal the name of a doctor who had killed five people by poisoning them. Aside from this being a legal issue of premeditated homicide, this is also a public health issue. If the doctor who was mentioned as Doctor X, originally was allowed to keep his identity hidden more patients would have been killed by him. If the journalist knows the true identity of the man who was eventually convicted of murder and does not share that name with the public, then he should also face charges related to deaths by the doctor. The fact of the matter is, is that using confidentiality should not always be protected, and if a journalist wishes to keep information or people hidden then he should face the necessary charges because through his role his work will automatically seem more valuable to citizens. Citizens automatically trust the news so if we do not hold journalist accountable it means that they may not be looking out for the best interest of residents.
You raise good points about why people may want to be anonymous as sources and why it is an important tool for journalists to have because it allows the public to know important information for public health and safety. Some of this has to do with the codes for journalists about when one should and shouldn’t use anonymous sources. The legal issue however, is about whether the courts recognize a reporter’s promises of confidentiality. A journalist can be called before a grand jury or court to testify about what they reported on. The issue is when the government’s interest in pursuing justice outweighs the benefit of reporters honoring the promises they have made. Journalists see this as mattering beyond a single case in that they fear that people will be reluctant to speak to reporters if they know that reporters may eventually reveal their identities. Journalists argue that long term, the benefits of the privilege outweigh the negative elements in any one isolated case.