I’ve heard from reporters and senior government figures alike that the Obama administration’s leak investigations are having a chilling effect on officials who normally interact with journalists. That’s unfortunate, because regular conversations about the business of government, as well as the injection of alternative perspectives by way of the questions reporters ask, or their reflections on what they hear, are critical to a healthy state.
But the stakes might be clearer if sources knew that reporters had skin in the game, too: if they understood that journalists weren’t asking questions idly — in hopes of a passing scoop, or even happy to be made use of in some messaging campaign — but because the information is so critical to the public interest that they are willing to risk repercussions for finding and airing it.
Comparatively unfettered though the press may be in the United States, its courage is frequently lacking. Washington relationships cemented by orchestrated leaks and background innuendo can verge on the sycophantic. Then again, government disingenuousness has also been on display in the current imbroglio.