VALOIS, NY - The jailing of Judith Miller for refusing to give up her source is, well, just a bad thing.
It's bad because journalists (and their editors and publishers) are already so goddamn timid it's awful. They're timid because of threats of lawsuits (which are expensive to defend), their fear of losing advertisers (again, $$$$), and because the public doesn't understand how important a confidential source can be.
I teach students every year that using confidential sources is important - to find out what they hell is going on. You use what they tell you to track down the facts in the matter and then publish. You don't need to say, a confidential source said, except in very extreme conditions. But if that confidential source won't speak at all - because they are afraid of losing their job, or maybe even fear for their life - then the journalist may not find out what's going on - and neither will you, the reader.
But, in America, I'm beginning to believe many people don't want to know what's going on. The truth can be pretty uncomfortable.
What is truly bizarre - or perhaps it's just so obvious we don't notice it - is that conservative columnist Robert Novak, who published the same information as Judith Miller, is sitting at home sipping a latte while she goes to a jail cell.
No threats, no prosecution and we have to put up with his smug rodent face on several television talking-head programs.
If it turns out that Karl Rove is indeed the person who outed the CIA agent, and Judith Miller is going to jail to protect the principle that she gave her word to keep her source confidential, well, of the two, who has a place reserved in heaven? And who should choke on undercooked ribs at a GOP fundraiser?