Dynamist Blog

Freedom to Report

Is freedom of the press a basic liberty or just a special-interest protection? In the Boston Globe, Alex Beam calls out journalists and First Amendment advocates for their tepid--or nonexistent--defense of Nicholas Ciarelli, whom Apple is suing for reporting truthful information about the company's plans.

Where is the outrage?

Apple Computer sued 19-year-old journalist Nicholas Ciarelli in January for disclosing trade secrets on his Apple news website Think Secret. A typical Think Secret annoyance: The site correctly predicted the appearance of the Mac Mini, a small, low-cost Macintosh computer, two weeks before the product was officially announced.

Ciarelli is accused of doing exactly what reporters all over America are supposed to be doing: finding and publishing information that institutions don't want to reveal. Do you think the Pentagon would have released additional details about football hero Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire in Afghanistan unless pressed by Washington Post reporters? No, I don't think so either. To think that a 19-year-old man should face trial for engaging in behavior that is the cornerstone of our democracy is sickening.

Where are the always-vocal guardians of the First Amendment? Where is the American Civil Liberties Union? Where is the American Society of Newspaper Editors? Where, for that matter, is Harvard's Nieman Foundation? They have publicly supported the higher profile case of The New York Times's Judith Miller and Time magazine's Matt Cooper, who have been ordered to reveal the sources of their reporting on the contentious Valerie Plame case. But I found not a word about Ciarelli -- a Harvard undergraduate and a beat reporter for the Harvard Crimson -- on the Nieman Watchdog website.

Maybe it's time for the Niemans to stop playing footsie with the butchers of Beijing and start standing up to the control freaks of Cupertino. The Ciarelli case "really hasn't come to our attention in any significant way at all," Nieman curator Robert Giles says.

It gets worse. Read the whole thing.

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