Sunday, November 27, 2005

An argument for Woodward, for all the wrong reasons

In Slate David Feige makes the argument that Bob Woodward was correct in staying silent over the past 2 years but for all the wrong reasons.

We have laws in this country that designate precisely when citizens are required to rat on other people. The laws, for instance, require doctors who witness injuries consistent with child sex abuse to call authorities; and social workers are obligated to snitch if they confront someone clearly about to physically harm another. Certain other professionals are also deemed by law to be "mandatory reporters." But outside these narrow confines, there is no law in our country imposing an obligation to begin or to assist in a criminal prosecution—not in drug cases, not in mob cases, not even in murder cases.

As much as the news media likes to fantasize about their lofty position in the world, their individual members are still relegated to the lowly status of human beingness. Bob Woodward's obligations are not limited by legal, or god forbid even journalistic concerns. His decision to hold information concerning a criminal investigation or reveal it should be guided by a very human understanding of doing what is right.

I posed the question in another blog's comment section about a month before the Woodward story became a story of whether any journalist should be responsible for providing information that could exonerate a defendant. The question then was rhetorical because I can't imagine any ethical person allowing an innocent person to be convicted when they have information that would set them free.

At this point it seems that this is the criteria that Woodward has been using, he realized that the timeline listed by the prosecutor was faulty and took actions to correct that. As this investigation continues, we'll see exactly who did what and when...hopefully, but for now Woodward was right and not because he followed the letter of the law.

Of course, there is an argument to be made that perhaps Woodward should have spoken up earlier to prevent this indictment. I'll leave that to the conclusion of the case or if more information becomes available.

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