NOTE: Yes, we read your comments on Between the Bylines. Every one. This thread, we thought was worth its own post from Sun-Times Media West Editorial Director Mike Cetera. So keep the comments coming. You never know when they may lead to a blog post -- or a newspaper article -- all their own!
Journalists as a rule -- one too frequently broken, to be sure -- don't like being the story. We believe the subject is almost always more interesting than the storyteller. But there are actual principles at stake -- namely credibility -- when journalists become the story, particularly when the story is a reporters' cooperation in a government investigation.
Journalists have been jailed (or threatened with imprisonment) trying to uphold the principle that the media should remain free and unfettered from government intrusion. Perhaps the most publicized instance of this was when New York Times reporter Judith Miller was held in contempt of court five years ago for refusing to testify before a grand jury hearing evidence in the outing of a CIA agent. Miller refused to identify a confidential source, arguing her promise to that source was more important than her personal freedom:
"I do not view myself as above the law," Miller told the judge. "You are right to send me to prison."
Miller took a stand to protect her credibility with sources -- Provide me with sensitive information and I will protect you. -- and in turn took a stand for all journalists who make similar pledges.
This is an extreme example.
More common is the example cited in an earlier Between the Bylines post of a police officer asking a Courier-News correspondent for eyewitness information.
More on when journalist become the story at The Courier-News and when we hand over our notes, after the jump.