Leaked Emails And Journalism
Wemple does a good job of weighing the considerations, but his use of the word "should" seems to confuse ethics and tactics. Of course press staffers shouldn't leak reporters' emails if they want reporters' trust. But reporters, partisan or not, also shouldn't operate under the illusion that political aides and they are on the same team. Any reporter would be furious at a leaked email, and the relationship would be blown. But reporters themselves capitalize constantly on just that sort of decision — a source who leaks a private email for a reason of her own, and knowing that it will blow up the relationship with the emailer. This is a matter of personal relationships and personal ethics, not specifically professional ones. And do even personal ethics dictate the confidentiality of, in particular, unsolicited emails?
First, a few quick points. I don't want to take a side in this, so much as analyze it objectively from my own perspective; nor do I see it as a major deal. Journalists love to talk about, or report on, themselves when they get a chance, so it probably drew a lot of attention due to that. heh That said….
Here's one question that occured to me. If the DNC email to BuzzFeed had contained an attached document, no one would claim it was leaking an email by reporting it, would they? I guess that's how I see the DNC email to Buzzfeed, more as a document intended to make news, than a personal email between two people.
Leaking "personal" emails is wrong but that's not cut and dried here – it was business, not personal. If one is going to take the position that taking a hard line in email with a source is good journalism (and I'm not saying it isn't), I think it's harder to argue that publishing an email someone sent you specifically to make news is bad journalism. The DNC leaked the email to a journalist to make news. If journalism is so sacrosanct, isn't it contingent upon a journalist to go with it at that point? It's a news story, whatever other personal motivations may be involved.
Another line I'm thinking along also supports running with it. New Media is, in good part, about putting a check on both journalism and journalists, or at least exposing their tactics. Again, I don't think the original email to the DNC was bad, or wrong, so much as a misjudgment, but an element of reporting did get exposed and has been discussed. As a New Media guy, that's not such a bad thing.
Finally, when I say "misjudgment," I don't mean a terrible one. But that's what led to this. A journalist pressed a source harder than the source liked being pressed; so they called the journalist's bluff.
In the end, no one died and all involved learned something about themselves, the people they report on and the people they report, or compete, with. Finally, round whatever it'll be will probaby be somewhere down the road somewhere and everyone will saddle up and do it, again. And someone will be reporting on it, and so it goes. Move on. I don't think anyone involved did anything all that wrong.