What Is The One Thing You Will Never Get From A Reporter?



“Off the Record. Deep Background. Not for Attribution.” These phrases usually will protect a source. But always?

The recent indictment of Scooter Libby reminded Your Business Blogger that there is one thing you will never get from a reporter.


The reason anyone would talk with the press is to advance an agenda. The source will tell his story; the reporter will write his story and seldom will they be same.

Most of the time, it is in the interest of the reporter to protect a source.

But don’t bet on it. If you have anything — anything that would make a story, you will be compromised.

The most dangerous spot to be is between a reporter and a Pulitzer.


Ben Bradlee

For example, would you sell out the American soldier for a Pulitzer Prize? No? Ben Bradlee would.

My friend Gary Bauer tells this story:

A number of years ago at the National Press Club I had the opportunity to ask Ben Bradlee, then executive editor of The Washington Post, what he would have done if he found out ahead of time about the D-Day invasion to liberate Europe.

Would the Post have printed the story?

Bradlee’s answer took a while, but the bottom line was . . .


Now most of what we communicate will not rise above compromising anyone. But take no chances, because the reporter will take no prisoners.

Of course not all reporters are monsters. Some of my best friends are journalists.

But remember reporter Ben Bradlee. Would he compromise his country?

Yes. For a story.

If a reporter cannot be loyal to his country, he will not be loyal to you.


Was this helpful? Do comment.

Thank you (foot)notes:

Mudville Gazette has Open Post.

Basil’s Blog has open trackbacks and a new look.

Outside the Beltway has Traffic Jam.

Stupid and Dangerous has Scooter as criminally stupid.

Guide to Midwestern Culture suggests Libby is more like Clinton than Bush.

The Passenger has more on media.

Don Surber has open post.


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5 Responses

  1. tee bee says:

    I’m not sure I was suggesting that Libby was any one thing – only that it was most likely he fell in one of two categories, given the facts and people being what they are – typically prone to loyalties and alignments, self-serving or otherwise.

    Funny how when Ben Bradlee comes up, it’s never for this type of truth about his journalistic instinct.

  2. Jack Yoest says:

    tee bee,

    You may very well be right in that Libby seems to be in a number of boxes with seemingly conflicting loyalties.

    Self interest, rightly understood, as Tocqueville would say (in a different context).

    Ben Bradlee is somewhat confused. The purpose of going to war is to preserve our institutions — our way of life. Freedom of the press paramount — but this institution would be lost if we follow Bradlee’s instincts. Bradlee would win his Pulitzer, but then there would be no one to award the bauble. A bit shortsighted, I would submit.

    Lord save us from any of Ben’s brilliance.

    Thanks for your ideas,


  3. The Drill SGT says:

    Whenever I hear a leak story I don’t think of Ben, Woodward and Bernstein. The press likes to think of All the President’s Men. I think of

    “Absence of Malice”


    a Classic Zealous____, Leak, Coverup, payback, moral, victims,

    “Who do I see about Teresa Perrone?”

  4. Jack Yoest says:

    Drill SGT, Thank you for the referral to “Absence of Malice.” This movie classic is in the catagory of DVD’s to own (for the children).

    Did Paul Newman ever make a bad movie?

    Your example is on target.

    This is why good-guys often have such a difficult time in high visability/high power positions: I have knowlege about my many faults/failures — sins!

    We all fall short of the glory of the creator…

    Except Bill Clinton. Oh to so compartmentalize transgressions! Rattling skeletons in the closet never bothered him. What ability! What psychosis.



  5. Tom McMahon says:

    The Most Dangerous Spot

    An excerpt from Jack Yoest:Most of the time, it is in the interest of the reporter to protect a source. But don’t bet on it. If you have anything — anything that would make a story, you will be compromised.

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