I’ve got a secret

harry.jpgAmong the very odd — though entertaining — elements of journalism, is when a beaten news institution applies an unspecified ethic to another.

The New York Times’ “The Lede” blog appears to excoriate Matt Drudge for blowing Prince Harry’s cover as a war grunt in Afghanistan.

What we do know is that the site claimed the story as an exclusive with the trademarked attribution, “the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.” Neil Wallis, the executive editor of News of the World, today slammed Mr. Drudge for the “cheap shot,” considering all the publications that obeyed an embargo, including his own.

“Any number of newspapers or broadcasters in this country could have claimed that as far back as December,” he told Sky News.

The Times goes further, posing several questions that, though not their own, also appear designed to force Drudge — certainly no factor in the high-fact, low-ego competition — to explain himself:

– Why did he blow Harry’s cover?

– Would he have done the same if it were the children of President Bush or Senator Hillary Clinton?

– What took him so long? (The secret was safe for 10 weeks).

Let’s take a step back here and recall that it was the New York Times that published a story that didn’t bother with the proof of an intimation that John McCain was having an affair with a female lobbyist.

It was also the Times, of course, that printed the Pentagon papers. More recent, it was the Times which printed details of how the government tracks the finances of terrorist organizations, it was the Times that revealed the domestic eavesdropping by the U.S. government. And it was the Times which withheld plans for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, certainly a disaster that could’ve been avoided.

The Prince Harry story, for the record, was a good story. Should it have been leaked? That’s open to debate; a debate we can now have — and it pains me to write the following words — thanks to Matt Drudge.

But if we’re going to question Drudge on his ability not to keep a secret from us, it also behooves us to question the world’s leading journalism organizations to explain to us fully why they did.

  • Well said. I don’t think Drudge should’ve run that story.

    Why do I need to know if Prince Harry was there? I don’t. So, let them keep a necessary secret.

    Bloggers can sometimes be fairly accused of being gotcha ranters. But, the bigger media is no less immune to the temptation to make a splash by saying “Hey, look at what I have that nobody else has.”

  • steve cushing

    What business is it of anyone to know who the Brits decide to send to a war zone?

    It isn’t anyone’s other than the military authorities and the the soldier’s family.

    Why should it be any different wether its a royal or a commoner?

  • Bob Collins

    People know a commoner is there. They don’t know one in line for the throne is. I don’t pretend to understand the royal family or the UK but the Brits can’t have the conversation if they don’t know.

    Let me turn it back a bit… the “what business is it if…” argument. And I’m not coming down on either side here, just turning the issue to examine it.

    What business is ANY story that’s in the paper or on blogs etc.

    Historically, of course, the media was very good at keeping secrets… cocaine in baseball, Jack Kennedy’s liasons, Roosevelt being in a wheelchair etc.

    What about a secret war in Cambodia? What about Joseph Wilson’s war.

    Someone always benefits from the keeping of a secret, right?

  • What purpose did outing the prince do? Was there ANY CORRUPTION IN GOVERNMENT like every other story that you mentioned? Was they any lawbreaking involved? Of course Republicans would want this to stop as soon as possible because it totally draws the spotlight on how rich kids and Republicans in general have dodged military service in the US. That’s the unreported story. Our press is very good at keeping secrets, Republican secrets that is.

  • Bob Collins

    I guess that bring sup the quesiton of what is news. The purpose of any news story — to me — is to take a snapshot of the world (or town) at a moment — good, bad and ugly. Of course, Harry didn’t go before because the public in the UK thought it a bad idea. So he was sent secretly.

    I doubt very much that people didn’t find the fact the Prince was put into a commoner’s situation.

    Grace, I have to ask you this, though: If republicans not serving in the military isn’t being reported, how do you know about it? (g)

    I can think of only one son of a congressman in Minnesota serving in Iraq — John Kline’s. I can think of one DFLer’s who died there — Becky Lourey’s.

  • GregS

    As long as we are talking about media and secrets. Let’s not forget the secret of who leads the Anti-War left. That secret affiliations of groups like A.N.S.W.E.R, Not in Our Name, Code Pink: Women for Peace, and Women Against Military Madness have a jealously guarded secret in the press.

    Even though peole have a right to know.

    For instance, I doubt if many people who participate in protests organized by A.N.S.W.E.R, know how tightly the podium is controlled or how the organization is a front for people who back the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia.

    Might be a great idea for a story, eh?

  • …Republicans in general have dodged military service in the US.

    Uh, “dodged” military service?? Is there a military draft I don’t know about? Just how does one go about dodging a volunteer service?

  • c

    “…Republicans in general have dodged military service in the US.

    Uh, “dodged” military service?? Is there a military draft I don’t know about? Just how does one go about dodging a volunteer service?”

    ask the President. He did serve in the Air Guard but wan’t that to avoid the draft?

    I think Michael Moore asked some Republicans if their children were serving in the armed forces in his movie, “Fahrenheit (sp) 911”.

  • Bob Collins

    Stop. Let’s get back to the questions posed in the original post, please.

  • c

    on the contrary Bob-I think it does have something to do with your article and question concerning the ‘leak’ Harry goes to War.

    I am happy to hear that Royal Harry took part in the war. He will some day be running their country right?

    So why doesn’t America send their own royal offspring to battle?

    And what is the big deal with the leak. There are tons of stories and news reports about the President going to Iraq. Isn’t there a concern that he would be a target? Or is this different. How often do we have news stories about the 133rd MNANG going? I can’t seem to see the issue here if there is one.

  • brian

    I fall in the group that thinks Prince Harry’s presence in Afghanistan should have been kept a secret. I don’t think that we as Americans have any urgent need to know that he was there, and since our knowing has a negative consequence (i.e. makes him less safe) it is fine that we were kept in the dark.

    I think the people of the UK are in a kind of Catch-22. They should have the right to discuss whether they want to send a member of the royal family to Afghanistan for a long period of time, since there would be hard choices to be made and painful consequences if he were captured. But having that conversation would preclude his going there since his presence being known would increase his danger dramatically.

    News organizations (in the broadest sense) have a fine line to walk when they decide to keep secrets. I think the media keeping a secret is rarely justified, but I think we should give the people that make those decisions some benefit of the doubt.

    The second act of this

    episode of “This American Life” is an interesting discussion of what should be “news.” (The first act is good too, but isn’t really relevant to the post.)

    I think discussion of the children of America’s leaders going to war is a worthwhile conversation to have, but will only muddy up this post and lead to divisiveness. It isn’t the main target of the questions that Bob asked.

    Also, we never hear about President Bush going to Iraq until he is already gone. It is a different situation.


  • Bob Collins

    Here’s the story behind the story, or, rather, the story behind the secret.