The editor-in-chief of Time Inc. made news the other day by offering to do what most of us take for granted: Obey the law. It's about time. . . .
The only protection that might help is an absolute shield, akin to the attorney-client or doctor-patient privilege. But as University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone notes, even those have exceptions. If a client asks his lawyer how to get away with robbing a bank, the conversation is not protected because the privilege was never meant to facilitate violations of the law.
The sort of privilege sought by the news media, however, would do just that. Reporters who are witnesses to a crime could evade the normal duty of citizens to tell what they know.
Journalists like nothing better than exposing self-seeking behavior by special interests who care nothing for the public good. In this case, they can find it by looking in the mirror.
In Washington, New York Times reporter Judith Miller has been sent to jail for disobeying a court order to testify before a federal grand jury to protect her source. In New York, Lil' Kim has been sent to jail for testifying falsely before a federal grand jury to protect her friends.