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Ethics, Anyone?


Oh look.  Natasha was less than scrupulous and failed to publicly disclose a big, fat conflict of interest along with her op-ed hit piece.  As did the WaPo.   (Via John Amato at C&L)

The WaPo and Deborah Howell have a lot to answer for in my estimation because of the Post's decision to have Toensing author an op-ed piece after she filed a brief on behalf of the Washington Post and the Post failed to disclose that fact when her story was published. Here's Howell's lame explanation:

While Toensing is a partisan, she also filed a friend-of-the-court brief during the leak investigation with media lawyer Bruce W. Sanford on behalf of 36 news organizations, including The Post. She and Sanford, who also worked on the 1982 law, argued that journalists shouldn't have to testify because no crime was committed if Plame wasn't a covert operative. Editors should have mentioned the court filing in the Outlook piece.

You think?

I wish that I could tell you that someone involved in this idiocy — either Toensing or the editorial board at the WaPo, or even its hapless Ombudsperson who feels that her job is to provide continuous CYA for her newspaper no matter the facts, or even the WaPo's media critic understood and apologized for this.  But still – several days later?  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero.

Oh, and Howie — here's a clue:  you have a first amendment right to say whatever you like about the case.  Absolutely correct.  But you also have an ethical obligation to your readers to disclose any and all conflicts of interest that may exist in the people that you have writing for your paper when they are writing about an issue for which they filed a friend of the court brief on your newspaper's behalf on the very case about which they are writing. 

Because, you know, they might have something I like to call a "bias" that, ethically, you ought to fully disclose publicly on the same page on which the article is printed.  Because, hey, that would be being honest.  Up front.  Not hiding anything.  Completely disclosing all relevent facts and details to your readers, so that they don't think you are using the article to cover Bob Woodward's behind by being less than candid about the writer's inherent bias in favor of how you'd like the world to view journalism.

Apparently, having someone be up front about the fact that they personally filed an amicus brief to keep journalists from testifying in a case where those same journalists were used as a tool in an alleged criminal activity is just too much to ask. 

And the fact that readers expect some honesty about this sort of thing up front when they read the article?  Well, that isn't important.  At least, not to the WaPo's ombudsperson.  The fact that this conflict of interest might have some bearing with regard to why the WaPo commissioned the op-ed?  Or why they have refused to allow any semblance of rebuttal to grace the paper's pristine editorial pages?

Ethics, schmethics, eh, Deb?  Moving right along.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com