Bill Bennett v. Howard Kurtz

Noel Sheppard on Newsbusters has posted a transcript of a debate between Bill Bennett and Howard Kurtz on the question, as phrased by Noel, “should journalists that report leaked military secrets during a time of war receive Pulitzer Prizes or jail sentences?”

If Howie Kurtz wants to win over anyone siding with Bennett, I think he’s going to need stronger arguments than what he led with:

Well, first of all, news organizations, including The New York Times and Washington Post, consider very carefully and sometimes withhold details and sometimes delay stories at the request of the administration when there’s sensitive national security involved. But what really troubles me about your approach, Bill, is that under your approach, you know, not just Daniel Ellsberg, but the journalists who published the Pentagon Papers would have gone to jail. Not just Deep Throat, but Bob Woodward would have gone to jail for publishing Watergate’s secrets.”

Quick thoughts:

1) The public elects presidents to decide what should or should not be secret, yet does not have a voice in selecting the leadership of the New York Times or Washington Post.2) Any argument based on the premise that Bob Woodward is a god is unlikely to be effective anywhere outside the Washington Post newsroom.

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