Protecting the rights of journalists means protecting even poor journalists. In a case before a federal court, that means standing up for the likes of Glenn Beck.
The right-wing talk show host, whose biases and disregard for the facts are well-established, has been ordered by a U.S. District Court judge to reveal his anonymous sources for a story in which Mr. Beck claimed that a Saudi Arabian student, Abdulrahman Alharbi, was the "money man" behind the Boston Marathon bombings. Mr. Alharbi was investigated and cleared of wrongdoing, but Mr. Beck persisted in his claims and is now being sued for defamation.
If Mr. Beck and his producers are compelled to release their sources, it would set a precedent in which capable journalists investigating legitimate stories could be discouraged from doing their important work. An example of this work would be The Boston Globe Spotlight team's investigation of clergy sexual abuse,
This is why the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association (MNPA), of which The Eagle is a member, has joined other organizations in filing a brief urging Judge Patti Saris to reconsider her decision. As Robert Ambrogi, executive director of the MNPA, told Boston Magazine, the principle that reporters must be able to protect confidential sources ",..has to be applied across the board, even if you don't like what the sources are saying or what the reporter is reporting. If you start making judgments like that, you start having standards that amount to censorship."
Mr. Beck's situation provides an argument for passage of a shield law in Massachusetts protecting journalists from having to reveal anonymous sources. While the talk show host doesn't merit sympathy, his court case risks doing a terrible wrong to journalists and the readers who depend on them to cast light in dark places.