The Source Behind the Story  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Letters
From AJR,   April/May 2005

The Source Behind the Story   


Regarding Rachel Smolkin's article on journalists "Under Fire" (February/ March), I do not believe that journalists should be compelled to reveal their sources.

However, it might be nice for the profession of journalism to acknowledge that, perhaps more often than not, the source is the story. Nobody really cares that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent; the real story is who made the decision to so identify her. The case of Wen Ho Lee has become a non-story except for the issue of why someone was out to get him and the techniques at his disposal.

Similarly, the lesson of Watergate for many right-wingers is that the liberals kept after Richard Nixon until they finally got him. That provided justification for the war against President Clinton. In that context, would Deep Throat's motivation be relevant? And the effort to destroy Clinton operated for a long time without journalists noting its existence or significance.

William A. Baker
Santa Barbara, California

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