Is Glenn Greenwald a journalist?
There has been much written and said in the past 24 hours about the exchange between David Gregory and Glenn Greenwald on Meet the Press yesterday. Many people have had an emotional reaction to David’s question to Glenn; “Why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” Glenn responded later in a tweet; “Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it.”
Some pundits were outraged, posting headlines like this:
But was Gregory’s question really “ridiculous?”
David led into his question by saying; “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”
In this case, he wasn’t necessarily directing his question to a fellow journalist. He was directing his question to a person who some feel ventured past the role of a journalist and into the role of a person who provided support to someone who has allegedly committed a crime. Greenwald admitted that he has had several contacts with Edward Snowden. Many people wonder if those contacts may have gone beyond being journalistic interviews. For Gregory to ask him about that seems to be a legitimate journalistic question.
Gregory didn’t say that Greenwald aided and abetted Snowden. He said; “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden.” That “extent” could range from nothing to a major level of support. And, based on Greenwald’s actions to date, it is fair to say that his degree of complicity could fall anywhere in that range.
Hence, why wouldn’t the public want to know the answer to Gregory’s question? Moreover, why shouldn’t a journalist feel free to pose that question under these circumstances?
Glenn should have answered, “I did not in any way aid and abet Mr. Snowden. I was acting in my capacity as a journalist conducting an interview.” But he did not say that. By challenging Gregory as “a fellow journalist,” he has only increased the public’s concerns as to how far he may have stepped outside the boundary of journalism in his relationship with Snowden.
Which brings me back to my opening question: “When is a journalist not a journalist?”
People who have the title of “journalist” are journalists when they conduct interviews and gather information for public reporting. They exit the role of journalism when they assume a supportive role in a crime that has allegedly been committed.
Perhaps it would have been better if David Gregory had worded his question in a different way. He could have been less direct by using the third person in his questioning. He could have said:
To the extent that a journalist went beyond reporting and aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, would you, Mr. Greenwald, think that that person should be charged with a crime?This line of questioning would have been less threatening to Greenwald.
Regardless, it appears to many people that Glenn Greenwald may have gone outside of his role as a journalist to help support Edward Snowden in his quest to escape prosecution. There hasn’t been any positive evidence to support this allegation, but there has been enough circumstantial evidence to allow journalists to ask the question.
Update 6/24/13: - Biting the hand that feeds him
Michael Calderone, at Huffington Post, posted a summary of a phone interview with Glenn Greenwald today. In the interview Glenn blames everyone else for his inability to directly answer a journalistic question posed by David Gregory. Greenwald presented a paranoiac reference to the “D.C. – New York media axis” who, he implies, are out to get him.
Glenn has been relishing his time in the national media spotlight lately. After today’s performance, however, that spotlight has greatly dimmed.
Don’t expect to see Glenn’s face again on network TV any time soon.