According to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the aggressive tactics used by the White House to prevent leaks is having a chilling effect on journalists and whistleblowers. Apparently reporters are finding it increasingly difficult to get their sources to talk to them. Considering the fact that the administration has used the 1917 Espionage Act more often than previous administrations combined, this isn’t too surprising.
What is a bit surprising is how little the press seems interested in trying to do anything to change the situation. Sure, they’ll complain about it and do pretty frequently. But that seems to be all they really care to do…complain. It’s pretty obvious by now that a pouty editorial here and there isn’t going to alter the administration’s behavior in the slightest. And sadly, the authors of the report don’t seem to grasp this any better than the press in general.
In its report, the Committee to Protect Journalists recommends several reforms, including ending the practice of charging people who leak information to journalists with espionage and preventing secret subpoenas of journalists’ records.
This seems Pollyannish in the extreme. “Ending the practice of charging people who leak information to journalists with espionage”? Why not suggest ending the practice of being secretive and controlling? That’s no less likely to happen.
Here’s a crazy idea. If the press is unhappy with the opacity of the White House, they can make an issue of the topic. It’s not like they don’t have a platform to spread the message. Why not press the White House and its allies about their behavior at every opportunity they get? They could even try taking an adversarial stance with the administration from time.
Or they could just try pretending that the President is a Republican.