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.