On the confidentiality of sources…

John Coulter in his column from the Irish Daily Star reckons that no reporter should ever give up their sources… Standing over the anonymity of sources brings its own price:

Keeping your reporter mouth shut about journalistic sources is not about becoming a martyr for press freedom. It’s about wondering where your next paycheque will come from; lying awake listening to the sound of every car entering your cul de sac; trying to figure out how to defuse family tensions and mend broken friendships.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Just to stray off topic – as I like to do – how do there papers like the Irish Daily Star and particualrly the somewhat incongrous Irish Daily Mail make a profit – even in the good times? Do they make a profit or are they simply an effort to have a presence?

  • “Keeping your lip buttoned is not a glamour business. It can be a lonely, frightening responsibility. But for the sake of a free press, it has to be done.”

    Well, our intrepid reporter has managed to keep his lip buttoned about the Rathlin ferry saga – so far. What or who was there to fear in that debacle? Perhaps the Irish Star could dispatch JC or one of its other reporters to investigate some rare goings on in Baltimore and Cape Clear this past week-end. Hint: there’s a Rathlin link.

  • Neil

    Coulter’s article underlines a point I had made last week, and it’s an obvious point. If Police can force journalists to hand over sources, who will ever report wrongdoing in the police or government.

    Giving the police this power would be tantamount to giving them the power to do as they pleased, as the sources for journalists would be non-existant due to the fact that the police would be able to find out who they were. Journalism like this is the reason we get to find out what our governments are desperate to keep hidden from us.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ll set up an open thread if you want to go off topic…

  • Neil, I endorse the points you make but I’d also point out the craven cowardice demonstrated by the MSM in the face of cheque-book litigation.

  • susan

    I was surprised a week or so ago to see Willie Frazer among those making explicit statements of support in the Sunday Tribune for Suzanne Breen’s refusal to name her confidential sources. But offer his support he did, a point Breen made herself in her piece in Sunday’s Independent:

    “Even staunch law-and-order supporters in Northern Ireland oppose the PSNI’s action. Willie Frazer of the IRA victims’ group FAIR loathes the Real IRA but says: “I want to hear what they have to say for themselves, not what the authorities want me to hear.” He also believes the PSNI should “get off their backsides and chase terrorists, not journalists”.

    Not interviewing the Real IRA won’t make that organisation go away any more than the broadcasting ban affected the Provisionals. The PSNI’s actions surely challenge the image of Chief Constable Hugh Orde as a liberal, enlightened cop. Ten years ago, he was a member of the Stevens’ team investigating collusion between paramilitaries and the security forces that tried to get journalist Ed Moloney jailed for refusing to hand over notes on a paramilitary who was charged with murder. Six years ago, Orde’s heavily armed PSNI conducted a five-hour raid on the home of Sunday Times journalists Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston over an alleged breach of the Official Secrets Act. Police inexplicably took away children’s games, bank statements, photographs and pay slips.

    A full hearing of my case is scheduled for 29 May. I have no desire to go to prison. But if the choice is jail or ethics, there is no choice to be made.”


  • Pigeon Toes

    Well if the Authorities don’t know the sources (and I would be very surprised if they didn’t), then there cannot be the campaign to discredit them….

    I think this more about the wielding of power, to ensure that journalists stay “on message”

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    thanks – just thinking out loud.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “who will ever report wrongdoing in the police or government.”

    And all too often it seems like there is little point in that either…

    Especially when they hold an “Investigation” which lies, misquotes and seeks to vilify and discredit those reporting the wrongdoing.

  • susan

    Just in case I did not pick up a big enough shovel to bludgeon my point home –it is an odd and disappointing turn when Willie Frazer is willing to criticise politice heavy handededness and defend the rights of a nationalist reporter and mother of a young child to do her job and protect her life and livelihood while so many choose to remain as silent as the tomb.