“Without Sources We are Nothing” – Reporter’s Privilege Must Be Protected at all Costs – Live Boston
On September 8, 1982, Paul Corsetti, a Boston Herald reporter, walked out of the Middlesex County jail after the State Executive Council voted to allow Governor Edward J. King to commute the 33-year-old reporter’s 90-day sentence for refusing to testify or break confidentiality with his source in a murder trial. His case is considered the first in the Commonwealth where a reporter was jailed for such a matter. When asked about the experience, Corsetti said, ”I’d do it again!”. The Governor at the time praised Corsetti for having ”great courage”.
This case from the early 80s is just one of many examples of how journalists have fought back against the overreach of city and state judiciaries who seek to trample the constitutionally protected rights of Bay State reporters. To call one’s self a journalist should mean something, a pledge and promise to be fair, accurate and trustworthy in one’s reporting. To seek out the facts and a story no matter where it may lead and to protect those who helped you along the way regardless of the cost to you. Any reporter who does not protect their sources holds no right to call themselves a professional and should be ashamed of their cowardice and lack of integrity and any Judge who makes such an order or ruling is no less than a tyrant and should be ashamed to call themselves an American.
Earlier today, Adam Gaffin at the publication Universal Hub reported on a case involving just this issue. Joshua Resnek, the editor of the Everett Leader Herald, in a recent filing in Middlesex Superior Court, agreed willingly to comply with the courts order to expose and trample his source’s confidentiality, stating he would produce, “any notes of any conversations with those sources that have not yet been produced, emails and other communications with those sources and any documents related to those sources…” including the identities of 10 of the 12 people who he had used for information.
This comes amidst a defamation suit between his publication and Mayor Carlo DeMaria of Everett. Mayor DeMaria, who has been the focus of many complaints, accusations and other controversies including corruption, sexual misconduct, racism, sexism and more is suing Resnek for “a series of utterly false articles”. It is yet to be seen if this is true.
The real focus of today’s news has nothing to do with the seriously questionable character, ethics, and possibly criminal behavior of Mayor DeMaria but rather the sad, pathetic and gutless decision by Joshua Resneck to willingly expose his sources to avoid personal penalty. The Everett Leader-Herald and News-Gazette should be ashamed to call Resneck their Editor, a man who once won an Emmy, wrote in the New York Times and even featured on 60-Minutes, has clearly fallen from grace and should step down immediately.
In Massachusetts, unlike many states that have shield laws protecting reporters, our courts apply a balancing test that weighs the public interest in access to everyone’s information against the public interest in the free flow of information, while acknowledging that confidential sources are crucial for the free flow of information. This leeway allows courts to pick and choose when confidentiality best suits them, something that should never be in question.
Confidentiality is a key concept in reporting, whether it be stories such as the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, the Iran-Contra scandal, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the collapse of Enron or smaller stories such as corruption of local elected officials or public safety misconduct. As of today, thirty-two other states and the District of Columbia have created statues that expressly defines a reporter’s right to keep unnamed sources confidential, a protection that the profession needs now more than ever as the government continues to overreach and the moral and ethical decay of society begins to creep into the profession, such as seen with the Resneck matter.
Here at Live Boston, I would like to believe that none of our staff would ever stoop so low as to reveal their sources and speaking from personal experience I know I never have and never will. I will leave you with this thought; “A reporter is no better than his source of information. If he can be summoned… his sources will dry up and the attempted exposure, the effort to enlighten the public, will be ended … [and] the reporter’s main function … will be to pass on to the public the press releases which the various departments of government issue.” What good does that do? Without sources we are nothing. Shame on you Joshua Resnek, you are a disgrace to our community.