Josh Wolf v. Judith Miller

After a record seven and a half months behind bars, San Francisco video blogger Josh Wolf has been released. Wolf walked out of a federal prison in Dublin, California Tuesday after prosecutors dropped a key demand that had made him the longest-jailed journalist for protecting a source in US history. Wolf was jailed on August 1st of last year when he refused to turn over video that he had shot of an anti-G8 demonstration in San Francisco.

from Democracy Now, April 4

Eighty-five days after being sent to jail for refusing to reveal a confidential source, New York Times reporter Judith Miller won her freedom after she and her lawyers secured a voluntary and personal waiver from a source who released her from a pledge of confidentiality.

Miller, who was released Thursday afternoon, testified Friday morning before a grand jury investigating who leaked the identity of an undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. Lawyers close to the case told The New York Times and The Washington Post that Miller changed her mind about testifying after I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, assured her that a waiver he signed and gave to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was not coerced. Her testimony was limited to conversations she had with Libby in July 2003.

from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, September 2005

Sometimes it can seem as if the world completely changes in just a few years. In 2005, a reporter for the New York Times refused to reveal her sources and the media could not stop talking about it. She spent eight-five days in jail. Then, last year, reporter Josh Wolf was jailed for the same reasons, eventually spending more than 200 days in jail, more than any journalist in U.S. history, and the story was almost fully ignored.

Interestingly, Miller was widely seen as a journalist corrupted by power, a lackey for the Bush administration’s war propaganda machine. Eventually, her paper, the New York Times, issued an apology for its often blindly patriotic coverage during the build up to the war. It was clearly too little way too late, but it did expose the corruption, just for a moment, that underlies much of the so-called mainstream journalism establishment.

Wolf is young and idealistic and his only mistake seems to have been working for non-traditional media and covering subjects from perspectives that the government would like to suppress. So the media almost entirely missed a story that you would think all journalists would insist is important, if not central to democratic culture. The wealthy cadre of journalist/Washington insiders who see themselves as ‘the media’ seem to be circling the wagons tighter and tighter. They will protect their own, but not much else.

Wolf has gone on to help found And, of course, he has his own blog as well, called The Revolution Will Be Televised. This isn’t the sort of thing that you expect from Ms. Miller, but she does have a site to promote her books, The democratic hope, of course, is that Wolf and his ilk will be able to create a permanent infrastructure that can serve as an authentic fourth estate.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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