Journalists Against Journalism; Reporters take issue with government surveillance

The Edward Snowden story has made headlines across nearly every news outlet across the globe, but the latest story doesn’t have to do with his asylum or the government’s attempt to prosecute.  Reporters and news organizations have taken this opportunity to speak out about their perspective on investigative journalism, declaring that government surveillance should be off limits.

David Sirota of has compiled a list of these reporters who attest to having a moral quandary in regard to investigative news when it comes to our government.  Sirota branded this group of news gatherers as “Journalists Against Journalism,” stating that to these reporters, “the best journalism is not the kind that challenges power or even merely sheds light on the inner workings of government; it is about protecting power and keeping the lights off.”

One group stands out among the rest in this list; The Washington Post.  In an editorial posted earlier this week, the paper seems to question the journalism in the story.  Ironically though, it was their paper that contributed to the development of the story.

It was a couple of weeks ago that the Snowden story first broke.  The Guardian ran the first interview with the former technical contractor for the United States National Security Agency, in which he revealed confidential information about a variety of classified intelligence programs.  With Snowden currently on the run, the U.S. government has spent the past few weeks tracking him down with the hope of extraditing him back to the U.S. to be prosecuted.

Snowden originally approached The Washington Post about state secrets on intelligence gathering before speaking with The Guardian.  The Post ran the story and aided in the development of the vastly expanding story, but now the Post is shaming their own reporters.  Earlier this week the Post published an editorial bashing Snowden and the news outlets that covered his story – aka themselves.  “Plugging the leaks in the Edward Snowden case” highlights what the editorial board at the Post believes to be espionage and not investigative journalism.

The only issue with the Post’s argument that Snowden reportedly stole “many more documents” is that there is no evidence.  The paper continues to say that “it is not clear whether Russia or China has obtained the material, though U.S. officials would have to assume that Mr. Snowden would be obliged to hand over whatever he has to win asylum in Moscow.”

So my question is, why write about assumptions when you can wait for the facts to come to light before you report?

The editorial team even went so far as to offer advice to Snowden by suggesting that he surrender to U.S. authorities.  My understanding of journalism is that it is the news organizations responsibility to report the facts and nothing more.  I understand that this is in fact an editorial, but given that the Post was one of the first publications to break the story, this sudden anti-whistleblower stance is conflicting with their original efforts to pursue the story.  I just don’t understand their intentions at throwing their own reporters under the bus.  What do they have to gain from this?

The editorial points out that the government’s first priority should be “to prevent Mr. Snowden from leaking information that harms efforts to fight terrorism and conduct legitimate intelligence operations.”  As a leading news organization that played a key role in the dissemination of the story, you might think that they would stand behind their reporters and uphold the work that they originally deemed important enough to splash across their front page.

About Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn is a recent graduate from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Buffalo News, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times 'Fort Greene Local', The Daily Meal, and
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