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Times Editor Chris Lopez's weblog





Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deep Throat

W. Mark Felt, the number two man at the FBI during the time, acknowledges in an interview with Vanity Fair that he was Deep Throat. President Nixon had said he long suspected that Felt was Deep Throat. This revelation today will be the topic of many water cooler conversations. He lives in Santa Rosa with his daughter.

6 Comments:

Blogger neonormal said...

I didn’t know what to think of this after seeing it on Drudge. Few have no opinion on who they thought Deep Throat was. I always suspected Al Haig (and I still have my doubts).

As reported elsewhere, Woodward met Felt in 1999 after he had a stroke and was, well, not quiet himself. The meeting was reported in the Washington Post "now confused because of the effects of a stroke, Felt was in no shape to provide credible information." This will only add to the conspiracy theorists' paranoia--blame it on the crazy guy and hide the real Deep Throat.

There are a lot of folks who were never thrilled with the anonymous-one-source-journalism so popular with the 70s reporting community. Think of Sy Hersch as well as Woodward and Bernstein and many others. The list is long of reporters using this ploy to garner readers. Many have been caught lying and lost jobs over it.

This trend coincided with the leftward movement of modern journalism and newsrooms, and shared some of the blame of media degradation. Thank god it is on its way out. The public never trusted this, and now the Internet has made fact checking much easier for anyone with a computer and half a brain.

We may never see truly objective reporting take over the main stream media. But one thing seems clear: The public will once again have its say by taking its eyes and ears to any number of new media venues.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Chris Lopez, Times Editor said...

Part of what we need to do in tomorrow's newspaper is bring some historical context and perspective to this revelation so readers can grasp the era. In terms of objective reporting, not sure that ever existed or can exist. Fairness should be the word we use to critique the work of journalists. I tell people I cover and talk to that my goal is to be fair. That's what you can expect from me. I will be fair to the subjects of the stories I report and write on. That's the oath I've taken as a journalist. I will give people the information in a fair way and they can decide for themselves. That's the goal and objective.

11:09 AM  
Blogger neonormal said...

Fair is a noble goal, but I want facts from news sources and hard news stories.

As for being a reporter, being fair shouldn't have anything to do with it. You find yourself on the slippery slope of what fair is, or who should be judgeing what fair is, or how to balance what is fair.

Being fair is too subjective for hard news like Watergate. You have the opinion pages for that.

Give me three quotes from three sources and as a reader I will determine what is fair is in my mind's eye.

Newsweek needed to have heeded that advice recently; Dan Rather and Mary Mapes would still be working if they heeded it. I will leave the New York Times off this list in the name of brevity.

Woodward and Bernstein would have nailed Nixon to the wall with real sources. Instead they left him a festering mess which dragged the country into the depths of soul searching that took decades to get over.

Leaked sources are a weak crutch to reporting. Give me facts and attribution on the news pages and leave the political leanings for op/ed.

Reporters must be very careful using sources like this. The very fact they leak the information questions the very credibility of the news source.

This WashPost story on Deep Throat sums up what leaking information is like. This is not something to be proud of, leaking information that violates others' trust in you, violates your work ethic and oaths not to mention violates the law this guy was sworn to uphold.


"I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat," he told lawyer John D. O'Connor, the author of the Vanity Fair article, the magazine said in a press release.

Felt was initially adamant about remaining silent on the subject, thinking disclosures about his past somehow dishonorable.

"I don't think (being Deep Throat) was anything to be proud of," Felt indicated to his son, Mark Jr., at one point, according to the article. "You (should) not leak information to anyone."

Felt is a retiree living in Santa Rosa, Calif., with his daughter, Joan, the magazine said. He could not immediately be reached for comment by The Associated Press.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Brian Boyko said...

I completely disagree with everything that neonormal just said.

I want the facts from my news, but I also want historical context, I want in-depth information, and if a source doesn't sound credible, you should go ahead and suggest he might not be and say why.

Being fair is the only way that you can remain truthful to the idea of informing your readers without falling into the trap of giving truthfulness and falsity equal time. Telling us that a source said "X" is less important than saying that "X" is true or false.

As for Watergate, it involved undermining the democratic process of fair and free elections. Since the election is the first, last, and in most cases only tool of the public to self-govern, and a journalist's mission is to give people the information they need to self-govern, being "objective" about Watergate is pointless. Be fair, by all means - but it's a bit disingenuous to have people like Pat Novak quoted for balance on these issues (especially after Pat Novak did a bit of leaking himself in the Valarie Plame case.)

Three quotes from three sources is useless unless you tell people whether or not those people are lying. Even the most civically attentive of us have day jobs and we don't follow politics like someone whose job it is to follow politics. Reporters aren't just storytellers, they are experts and we go to them for information.

And trying to blame Woodward and Bernstien for the festering mess the nation was in after Watergate is like trying to blame Elliot Ness for the Valentine's Day Massacre. The fault lies with Nixon and his accessories and accomplices. He broke the heart of the American dream - all Woodward and Bernstien did was tell America he did it.

In this day and age, if you see something that you know is wrong - especially if your job is law enforcement and your boss is committing crimes you are obligated, ethically, to take action. Felt couldn't do so through normal channels - so he had to do his job in an unorthodox manner.

That said, I am not a fan of anonymous sources. There's only one case where anonymous sources are justified - where the reporter and editor know the identity of the source, where the source has information that the reporter cannot get elsewhere, where the source has information that can be confirmed, and where reporting the source's identity would lead him to grave harm.

Mark Felt fits all four criteria.

Finally, anonymous sources and political bias are two seperate issues. Factual information from anonymous sources are not opinion, and facts should be reported regardless of the source if they can be verified.

4:15 AM  
Blogger neonormal said...

I may have missed Michael Moore’s Watergate documentary so I don’t understand how this is about free and fair elections.

Nixon’s crime was for covering up a burglary. He has never been implicated in anything else I am aware of--just the cover up. Not to make light of this though. What Nixon did was wrong.

So this has nothing to do with free and fair elections. That is unless you are rewriting history. Or maybe this is a case of Ann Coulter’s claim “that for liberals history began this morning.”

As for Bob Novak outing Valerie Plame, that is a huge joke. She assigned her husband to the CIA yellow cake uranium caper. The one where he wrote the memo saying there was a plot for terrorists trying to buy it, then saying he didn’t write any memo, then saying why yes indeed he did write the memo—AND SIGNED IT IN WET INK.

And oh yeah, Plame denied having assigned her husband to the job, then later admitted to in fact assigning him the job herself.

These two are partisan flip-flop hacks. Citing them belittles your argument. Every time they open their mouth partisan drivel emerges.

Plame was famous for bragging how important she was inside the beltway at cocktail parties anyway. This was no outing. She couldn’t keep her mouth shut.

And Mark Felt had huge motives for being sleazy himself. He was passed over for head of the FBI by Nixon and was vocally peaved at Nixon ever since. Felt is no different than Linda Tripp. Except she was brave enough to stand up for herself, and didn’t break oaths and laws like Felt did.

As to three quotes from three sources; that is the time honored standard of a good news story from J-school 101. It was meant as a jab to anonymous-source reporting.

And neither you nor Mr. Lopez has explained exactly what fairness in journalism is.

I am waiting for that one.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Ray Brickman said...

Wow, I couldn't believe!

Ray Brickman
Apartment for Rent in the Philippines

12:27 AM  

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