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Bill Clinton vs. the Citizen Journalist

There is just no way Bill Clinton, a prominent public figure, should assume that anything he says to someone standing there with a microphone in this day and age is not going to be online two minutes later. If he wants something to be confidential, he has to ascertain who he’s talking to and ask for that. The onus is on him not to run his mouth in public, and I can’t really fathom that anyone would argue otherwise.

In the absence of an explicit agreement for confidentiality requested by a subject and granted by a journalist, everything is (or should be) "on the record." I’m reminded of Tim Russert’s jaw-dropping testimony at the Libby trial when he announced that he assumed everything was off the record unless his sources told him it was okay to go with something.

That isn’t investigative journalism, that’s stenography.

This whole pearl-clutching business about how it’s "making it harder for journalists to do their jobs" is nonsense. The thing that’s making it harder for journalists is the fact that people like Mayhill Fowler will report what they won’t, and people don’t trust them any more as a result. How has this ordinary woman gotten two big scoops in this race, just by reporting what she heard? It’s not like she was the only one there.

That’s what they should be asking themselves.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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