Reporter Toobin Lashes Out At Reporters Who Use 'Stolen' Documents; Leaves Out His Own History Of Doing The Same

from the it's-just-not-civilized-to-do-real-reporting dept

David Carr, over at the NY Times, has a good article looking at how many of the people who have been involved in reporting on recent leaks concerning government abuses -- from Wikileaks to the Snowden leaks -- have been attacked by more "traditional" journalists, like David Gregory of Meet the Press and Jeffrey Toobin of CNN and the New Yorker. Carr says that this is the war on leaks, "pitting journalist v. journalist," but others have noted that it's a little more involved than that. Ryan Singel simplified it down to journalists vs. sycophants, since those complaining about Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Julian Assange and others tend to be "insider" journalists -- those who rely on good relationships with government officials to "report" the news. Mathew Ingram, similarly, noted that the old school journalists were dealing with "the shock of inclusion," in that journalism is now done in a different way, and they don't like it.
The unavoidable sense one gets — not just from Carr's piece, but from all the other responses by Gregory and others to the NSA story and to WikiLeaks, and even to events like Reddit's attempt to contribute to the reporting around the Boston bombings — is of an "us vs. them" mentality, in which bloggers like Greenwald or more extreme personalities like Julian Assange are treated like invaders storming the barricades of the journalism establishment. As Carr puts it:
“The larger sense I get from the criticism directed at Mr. Assange and Mr. Greenwald is one of distaste — that they aren’t what we think of as real journalists. Instead, they represent an emerging Fifth Estate composed of leakers, activists and bloggers who threaten those of us in traditional media. They are, as one says, not like us.”
Carr also has this interesting exchange with Toobin, who has been among the angriest haters against Snowden, Greenwald and the rest:
Mr. Toobin agrees that an important debate has been joined, but says no story, no matter how big, justifies journalists’ abetting illegal acts, saying, “Journalists are not above the law.”

“The Jane Mayers, Sy Hershes and Walter Pincuses have all done superb work for decades without the rampant lawlessness that was behind these stories,” he said, adding later, “I’ve never heard any of those journalists endorsing the wholesale theft of thousands of classified government records.”
That seems especially ironic, given that just last week it came out that Toobin himself has been accused of taking a ton of classified documents for a book he was writing:
In journalist Michael Isikoff’s book, Uncovering Clinton: A Reporter’s Story, he described how Toobin was caught “having absconded with large loads of classified and grand-jury related documents from the office of Iran-Contra independent counsel Lawrence Walsh” in 1991:

Toobin, it turned out, had been using his tenure in Walsh’s office to secretly prepare a tell-all book about the Iran-contra case; the privileged documents, along with a meticulously kept private diary (in which the young Toobin, a sort of proto-Linda Tripp, had been documenting private conversations with his unsuspecting colleagues) were to become his prime bait to snare a book deal.   Toobin’s conduct enraged his fellow lawyers in Walsh’s office, many of whom viewed his actions as an indefensible betrayal of the public trust.  Walsh at one point even considered pressing for Toobin’s indictment.

Toobin was “petrified” that he would have to face criminal charges for stealing information for a rather dubious book deal. According to Isikoff, he either “feared dismissal and disgrace, or simply wanted to move on.” Toobin “resigned from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn (where he had gone to work after Walsh) and abandoned the practice of law.”

Read that again, then go back and read Toobin's whining to David Carr. And try not to choke back the laughter. Toobin isn't upset that documents were taken as a part of journalism, since it appears that he, himself, had no problem with that. He's upset that it's used in a way that he doesn't like.

It is true that there are differences between many of those old school journalists and the new school who are breaking all of this news. The old school tried to buddy up with government sources to get their story. The new school would rather get the story. Apparently that upsets the old school, because it makes their stenography "reporting" a bit less interesting.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2013 @ 4:06pm

    Sounds more to me like that was probably a defining moment in Toobin's life and he's reacting strongly against a familiar-sounding young man who, faced with the same situation, made the opposite decision. I bet Toobin even "fessed up" to his colleagues and begged for mercy, and years after having gotten off essentially scot-free, he decided that was somehow noble and his greatest redeeming quality from this otherwise embarrassing pathetic moment.

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