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The New York Times exposing the whistleblower is a breach of journalistic ethics

The New York Times exposing the whistleblower is a breach of journalistic ethics

The New York Times exposing the whistleblower is a breach of journalistic ethics
October 09
16:32 2019

The hashtag #CancelNYT began trending on Twitter after the New York Times leaked the identity of the whistleblower as a CIA officer assigned to work at the White House.

People were outraged with The New York Times’ decision and threatened to cancel their subscriptions to the paper if they didn’t fire the editor, Dean Baquet. Many people compared the situation to the Watergate scandal and how Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein kept Mark Felt’s identity secret for 31 years.

Trump has implied that the appropriate punishment for the person who gave the whistleblower the information would be execution.

Therefore, the leaked information comes at the cost of the whistleblower’s safety and well-being.

“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now,” Trump said at a private event.

Although the whistleblower’s name is still unknown to the public, the whistleblower’s lawyers have expressed concern over the President’s statements. Even though Trump wasn’t directing his comments at the whistleblower, many people are eager to know the whistleblower’s identity, and Trump’s verbal assaults against the whistleblower now puts the whistleblower in a dangerous situation.

The threat was a deliberate attempt to keep other whistleblowers from coming forward during the impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

“It’s pretty clear the president is going to make [the inquiry] as difficult as possible, and do so in as dangerous and unethical a way as possible,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff said.

After Trump’s threats against the whistleblower’s informant, the New York Times has displayed a lack of journalistic integrity in identifying the whistleblower.

On top of Trump’s threats, other witnesses might be even more hesitant to come forward to testify in the House’s impeachment inquiry because they now have to fear having their identity exposed by journalists.

If their identities do get leaked, who knows the slander and attacks they’d have to deal with from the Trump administration. 

With something as delicate and serious as the impeachment inquiry, The New York Times risks jeopardizing the proceedings. Witnesses’ testimonies are going to be a key factor, and Trump’s rhetoric has been reason enough to keep others from coming forward to speak out.

Another reason this was a breach of journalistic ethics is because the protection and identity of sources is always of the upmost importance. If a person wishes to remain anonymous that is their right, especially since this is such a high-profile case.

Anonymity is the key to their safety and protection. 

Trump’s comments can scare away witnesses because they don’t want to be viewed as traitors. It’s our journalistic duty to follow a code of ethics and The New York Times betrayed that code by narrowing the target on the whistleblower’s back.

The New York Times tweeted out a response by Baquet explaining their decision to publish the whistleblower’s identity. It said, “The role of the whistle-blower, including his credibility and his place in the government, is essential to understanding one of the most important issues facing the country— whether the President of the United States abused power and whether the White House covered it up.”

This statement was a misguided excuse because the whistleblower’s identity has no affect on his credibility.

We’ve also seen in the past, with the Watergate scandal, that keeping an identity secret has no effect on the outcome or credibility of the whistleblower, either.

Featured Illustration: Jeselle Farias

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Vivian Berreondo

Vivian Berreondo

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