Wasserman, the Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University, contrasts the lone ranger efforts of unknown independent journalists such as Vanessa Leggett and Josh Wolf at protecting the principle of the First Amendment with the marquee "singing journalists" who testified at the Scooter Libby trial. The latter were quick to tell Frontline all about the need to protect the principle, but here are two people who have done time -- walked the walk if you will.
Wolf, 24, has been behind bars nearly six months, said to be longer than any other journalist in U.S. history. The previous record was held by another journalist you never heard of, Vanessa Leggett, who spent 168 days in federal lockup in 2001 for refusing to turn over notes for a book about a murder in Texas.
Maybe it's a cheap shot, but the contrast is irresistible between their dogged refusal to talk and the glamorous parade of marquee journalists that queued up in Washington to testify at the trial of Lewis ''Scooter'' Libby, Vice President Cheney's ex-chief of staff.
What happened is that these journalistic heavyweights -- and their employers -- just didn't have the stomach for a fight.
Meanwhile, bantam-weight blogger Josh Wolf languishes in jail to protect some ordinary people and a principle: That reporters have to be able to assure people that they're independent, that they'll stand up to bullying, that they won't be dragooned as helpmates to police, prosecutors or grand juries.
The cruelest irony is that Wolf's tormentors deny he's a journalist at all. To me, if he's independently gathering publicly significant information for the purpose of making it widely known, he's a journalist.
The question is what we call the songbirds at the Libby trial.