Monday, June 24, 2013

Is Paul Krugman a journalist?

I ask in all seriousness because tout le monde is, was, or will be, upset that David Gregory asked Glenn Greenwald if Greenwald should be charged with aiding and abetting Edward Snowden's crimes, and Greenwald huffed (on air and later on  Twitter, where all serious conversations are held) that the question was insulting.  Or appalling.  Or something.

And I'm trying to figure out the difference between me, Krugman, and Greenwald.

I post on this otherwise largely overlooked blog.  If a former NSA employee came to me and wanted me to publish his/her stolen secrets, could I claim the magic privileges accorded to journalists?

Yeah, right.

But up until he got a gig with the Guardian, Greenwald was a blogger.  Now he writes a column for that paper, in which he does nothing more than express his opinion, usually based on some current news item. Paul Krugman writes a column for the New York Times, in which he does nothing more than express his opinion, usually based on some current news item.  And, of course, like Greenwald I am a lawyer, and like both of them, I publish my opinion, usually based on some current news item.  Krugman is a college professor.  If Ben Bernanke came to Krugman with juicy inside info on the Federal Reserve and Krugman got the NYT by-line on a news article, would Krugman now be a journalist?

What about if he just posted it on his NYT blog?

Which of us is a journalist?

One attempt at definition is that a journalist is someone with an editor.  Paul Krugman has an editor.  I don't.  Guess I'm out.  But is Greenwald a journalist, and Krugman not?  And what difference does it make?

I don't think journalists have any special legal protections (this is one reason Obama started pushing a shield law), but Greenwald does and he sure wants 'em now.  Nobody suspects Barton Gellman of aiding a felon, but Gellman hasn't been in Hong Kong hobnobbing with Snowden.  I assume Greenwald didn't go all that way to talk to Snowden on Skype.

So is Greenwald a journalist?  Does he have a magic legal shield Krugman and I don't?  If he doesn't, why does anybody think David Gregory asked the wrong question?  Especially when he made this comment:

Gregory replied that "the question of who's a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you're doing," but added that he was merely posing a question others have asked, and not "embracing anything."
Greenwald is a noted and vociferous supporter of Julian Assange.  Wikileaks says they are helping Edward Snowden.  Did Greenwald's support of Assange lead him to want to help the next Assange before criminal charges were filed?  Greenwald has clearly wanted this story to affect U.S. government policy.  I can't say the same for Barton Gellman, or for David Gregory.  Greenwald is free to support whomever he wants, but is Greenwald a journalist because a newspaper publishes his opinions?  Did Snowden contact Greenwald because of the latter's support for Assange?  Did Greenwald help Snowden in any way in Hong Kong, or even to get to Hong Kong?

It's a fair question.

But before we answer that, can somebody please explain to me just who the hell a "journalist" is, and what kind of special protections they get?  'Cause I can't figure out how Glenn Greenwald is anything; except opinionated.


  1. Some of the flack to David Gregory could be because he's so awful, even an awful journalist.

    Again, I was one of those people who said Judith Miller was a witness to a crime and, as a witness, she didn't have any right to shield her "source". Oddly enough, a lot of the same folks didn't have any objection to that point back then. Scooter Libby leaked classified information to journalists. Robert Novak would be covered under the standard they want to apply to Greenwald, I'd guess.

    I wonder how many 29 year old contractors they want leaking whatever information they feel strongly about to whoever they feel will publish it. Or even if they've thought that much about it. I don't like the NSA and think the government does way too much sweeping up information but I really did think they were doing a lot more than what has been revealed so far. And I'm certain Google is doing far more now and far more obviously. Anyone who doesn't use Ad-Block could see that.

  2. Journalists never have a right to "shield" a source, absent a shield law that gives them that specific protection. Journalists have gone to jail long after the 14th Amendment extended the 1st Amendment beyond just the Federal government for contempt of court for refusing to follow a court order to reveal a source.

    Which is really kinda my point: journalists don't have special legal protections that non-journalsts don't enjoy, largely because we can't agree on what a "journalist" is. I know what a barber is, because they get licensed by the state. But Glenn Greenwald is now a journalist because Charlie Pierce says so. And even if Greenwald is a journalist, he's not protected from prosecution for aiding in a criminal act; except as a matter of tradition.

    But that tradition usually only covers "journalists," so we're back where we started.

  3. Though I'm no fan of David Gregory, I don't understand why he should not have even posed the question to Greenwald. If it wasn't for Charles Pierce's post, I'd never have known, because I don't watch the show.

    Regarding the Snowden affair, I find myself in disagreement with many people with whom I usually land on the same side in most issues of the day.

    Is I a journalist?