The Popcorn Stand: No, journalists shouldn’t go to jail for making ethical decisions
When I saw this, “Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and a potential candidate for a role in the White House under Trump, said New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet “should be in jail” for publishing pages from Trump’s 1995 tax documents earlier this year,” it sent chills down my spine.
Again, full disclosure as those of you who choose to read this Popcorn Stand, not a big Donald Trump fan. We’re not even close to Trump’s inauguration, yet, but if the actions of him and his surrogates are any indication so far, I shudder to think what could happen over the next four — or eight — years when it comes to the state of investigative journalism in this country, which has already been sacrificed enough as it is.
Yes, I get it, there’s a mistrust of the “sneaky” media and I think it’s safe to say that mistrust is much higher among at least some Trump supporters.
Yes, technically, Baquet received “stolen” property, i.e., leaked information, to print Trump’s tax documents, and he stated he was willing to go to jail for printing those documents. That apparently served as the motivation for Lewandowski, I guess, to call Baquet on his bluff and say Baquet should go to jail.
I know Trump calls the media “dishonest” and that doesn’t bother me. I think every president in our history has called the media dishonest at one time or another. I actually get a kick out of Spiro Agnew’s alliteration on his feelings about the media when he called them the “nattering nabobs of negativity.”
But for anyone associated with the president to even suggest journalists should go to jail based on ethical decisions they make in the pursuit of investigative journalism — trust me, that’s a path we don’t want to head down in this country.
And if every journalist from the community to the national level was jailed for receiving “stolen” property and reporting on that information, our jail space wouldn’t remotely come close enough for all those who would be incarcerated.
That list would include myself. At another newspaper I worked for I received “stolen” documents — a coach forged the signatures of two professors so his players would be eligible.
The grade change forms in which the professors’ signatures were forged were given to me. I made the ethical decision to receive and report on that information.
Every journalist should be able to make that ethical decision — without the threat of being sent to jail.
— Charies Whisnand