Sunday, November 2, 2008

To release or not release the tape.

(Photo of Rashid Khalidi, courtesy of the LA Times)

In Fox's latest attempt to out the 'liberal media,' Sean Hannity, among others, are demanding that the LA Times release video footage of Barack Obama toasting Rashid Khalidi, the former head of the PLO in the late 70's, at a recent dinner (also in attendance: Billy Ayers). The Times has responded and since said that it will not release the tape. But how come?

The case isn't so simple or just about a tape in fact. The tape was acquired by the Times from an anonymous source and the story first went to print in April, over 6 months ago. The only mention of the tape in the story was: "The event was videotaped, and a copy of the tape was obtained by The Times" about 2/3rds of the way into the piece. Nothing about confidential sources. Nothing about what was said at the event.

We all learn during the early days of J-school, you never give up a source who requests that his/her identity be kept hidden. That's a given. But why not at least a manuscript, LA Times?

The media, in particular The LA Times, have drifted from that policy before. For example, the Times released a transcript in an article on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, during his bid for re-election in California. The governor was caught on tape speaking about Hispanics and the LA Times received the audio from an also unnamed source. They chose to run the transcript anyway.

Just a few days ago, The Times endorsed Barack Obama for president. Are they now able to deal fairly with potentially damaging information about the Democratic candidate?

While I understand the ethical grounds, the Times has already broken that deal before. Why not do the same here?

1 comment:

M. Dery said...

The $64,000 question, here, is: Did the Times's agreement with its anonymous source not to make the video itself public presume, as the Times seems to imply, that the paper would not make public a complete transcript of the video, either? In the Fox article you link to, the LAT spokesperson notes, "The Los Angeles Times did not publish the videotape because it was provided to us by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not release it." Your post cries out for clarification on this point. In fact, your entire argument hangs on it, because if the LAT's agreement with its source stipulated no transcript, well, that lets the air out of the conspiracy theorists' tires over at the FNC. Did you try to report the story, contacting the LAT spokesman or the author of the original LAT story on the tape? Also, you need to address this point of argument: "This is a story that we reported on six months ago, so any suggestion that we're suppressing the tape is absurd -- we're the ones that brought the existence of the tape to light," Sullivan said.
Is Sullivan's argument bulletproof? If not, why not?