Mirror, Mirror—If you Google Newsed the names "Lance Williams" and "Mark Fainaru-Wada" last week, you would have seen a whole lot of headlines laced with words like "freedom" and "integrity." Mostly, these headlines graced the top of commentaries, spawning by the hour.
Williams and Fainaru-Wada are sports journalists at the San Francisco Chronicle who dug up information on steroid use in the big leagues and who might go to jail for not revealing their source. On Thursday, Sept. 21, a judge sentenced them to 18 months, though the scribes are appealing the decision.
Fellow journalists are pissed. And since we're the motormouths, the ones with the bullhorns and soapboxes, you're going to hear all about it. The same thing happens any time a reporter is taken hostage in Iraq. Big, bold fonts decorate front pages—never mind the other hostages or the thousands dead.
It sucks that those guys could go to jail for being good at their jobs, for keeping their promise to an anonymous source. Still, we shouldn’t open the writer dams and let loose waterfalls of ink in our papers, convincing our readers they should care about this stuff. The articles on the topic were enough. The interviews, the coverage, that should really do the trick. It's the soggy commentary that's got to go.
It's self-love, a classic vanity. Members of the media have the power to broadcast our concerns about our jobs, to wax poetic about our duty to our sources and sound a fairly clamorous rallying call demanding the government protect us as we carry out our sacred task. But journalists might consider refraining from abusing that perk in the interest of pumping up the old ego.