Weekly Roundup 5/23/2011

Can Mainstream Media Match WikiLeaks?
Peter Scheer, Huffington Post, May 16, 2011

Synopsis: Mainstream media outlets clearly wish they could bypass cranky Rebels With a Transparency Cause like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange by enticing whistleblowers to leak government and corporate documents directly to them. The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently launched its “SafeHouse” website to do just that. But the efforts will fail because media companies won’t and can’t offer leakers blanket anonymity, says the executive director of the nonprofit First Amendment Coalition.

Takeaway: “If the Journal receives a subpoena demanding copies of documents that you submitted confidentially … don't expect Journal editors to pay fines or go to jail to keep them secret,” writes Sheer. “Don't even expect the Journal to give you a heads up about a subpoena; it may turn over your documents and tell you after the fact (or not at all)…. The Journal can't ignore a subpoena or court order…. Although they might choose to go to the mat in a particular case, they certainly can't commit in advance to do so for a source they don't know, offering government records they've never seen. The best they can do (or, that the lawyers will let them do) is leave open the door to possible negotiations…. WikiLeaks, on the other hand, needn't deter [whistleblowers] with legalese. Court orders against WikiLeaks, for all practicable purposes, are unenforceable.”

-Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


“Is the biggest threat to Speaker of the House John Boehner the ‘Young Guns’ in his own party?
Michael Leahy, WP Magazine (Washington Post), May 22, 2011

Synopsis: Political reporter Leahy combines a personality profile with insightful reportage and analysis to delineate the political challenges facing House Speaker Boehner. Boehner’s challenges come, Leahy says, not so much from President Obama and congressional Democrats but from three rising stars from his own GOP ranks: Virginia’s Eric Cantor, majority leader; California’s Kevin McCarthy, majority whip; and Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Takeaway: “Boehner’s detractors still doubt his bond to conservative values,” Leahy writes. “Any serious miscalculation,” he adds, “might incite a challenge from a key lieutenant or insurgent.”

-Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Durango’s Killing Fields
Tim Padgett, Time, May 21, 2011

In a short but vivid on-scene report from northern Mexico, a veteran correspondent chronicles the latest atrocity to surface in the catastrophic drug war that is raging through Mexico’s border region with the United States. The report focuses on the latest discovery of a mass grave – the seventh so far. All in all, they contained 218 bodies. Violence that began as warfare between rival drug gangs still seems unstoppable. The Time account notes that the mass graves are reminiscent of massacres in the Balkans, Central America and South America in recent decades.

-Peter Katel, Staff Writer