What’s the Difference Between Barton Gellman and Glenn Greenwald?


Glenn Greenwald makes a point worth repeating today about the steady publication of stories based on the documents Edward Snowden provided to several media outlets last year:

(1) Edward Snowden has not leaked a single document to any journalist since he left Hong Kong in June: 9 months ago. Back then, he provided a set of documents to several journalists and asked that we make careful judgments about what should and should not be published based on several criteria. He has played no role since then in deciding which documents are or are not reported.

….(2) Publication of an NSA story constitutes an editorial judgment by the media outlet that the information should be public. By publishing yesterday’s Huawei story, the NYT obviously made the editorial judgment that these revelations are both newsworthy and in the public interest, should be disclosed, and will not unduly harm “American national security.” For reasons I explain below, I agree with that choice. But if you disagree — if you want to argue that this (or any other) NSA story is reckless, dangerous, treasonous or whatever — then have the courage to take it up with the people who reached the opposite conclusion: in this case, the editors and reporters of the NYT.

There’s more at the link, but it’s worth noting that although Greenwald himself is the subject of routine suggestions of treason-esque behavior, very rarely is the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman given the same treatment. But Gellman has been responsible for some of the biggest stories to date based on the Snowden documents.

Why the difference? Obviously Greenwald has placed himself in the public eye more than Gellman has, but that’s hardly sufficient explanation. What matters is what gets published. And the truth is that, as near as I can tell, nearly every single document that Greenwald has published so far would also have been published by the Post or the New York Times if they had gotten to it first. He hasn’t done anything that these pillars of American journalism haven’t done too.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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