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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"News War" producer chats on WAPO

Raney Aronson, a producer at Frontline, was chatting online today at the Washington Post about the first episode of News War. Read the transcript to see some terrific questions. This one from Alexandria, Virginia, was particularly interesting:
"Your show touched on something that I've been wondering about for a long time and which I think is extremely important. You discussed the evolution of confidential sources from the early "whistleblower" types to today's constant and often unnecessary use by government types to "put out" info/their side of the story/impugn someone etc. It has struck me for a long time that the media developed a process a long time ago and everyone has become "media savvy" and knows how to use that process to their ends. Yet, the media does nothing differently. They continue down this path as if it was the only way to "journalistic truth". Why hasn't someone figured out a different way to tell the public what is happening? Doesn't it rankle them that they're being used constantly and not in the service of truth?"

Raney Aronson: "Well, I think that was at the heart of what Lowell Bergman cared about when reporting on this issue. It is definitely true that journalists get played - but then it's also true that the use of confidential sources are essential to our profession. John Miller (former journalist and now with the FBI) said something that struck a cord with me, he basically said because now that Branzburg was reaffirmed and if a federal grand jury in good faith asks a reporter for his/her sources a new conversation needs to start happening between reporters and their sources. The bar in other words for granting confidentiality should he argues be higher - and I absolutely agree with this assessment. For his interview go to our website."

Here's a question: What would happen if the Washington Press Corps just stopped granting government officials anonymity? Want to change the rules of the game, then make it so.

There's a lot of criticism fired at Frontline on the discussion board. But it's clear from reading transcripts of the extended interviews that you can't possibly get the full picture of what it's presenting without seeing those complete interviews.

If you want to pick one, try Ron Suskind.

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