Lunes, Setyembre 17, 2018

Why Reporters Hide Their News Source

 By Mortz C. Ortigoza

When a newspaper writer would not divulge the name of his source by saying “the source asked to hide his name” or “the source asked for anonymity” it means he based on “Deep Background”.
A journalistic term that the information can be used but no source any kind would be identified in the newspaper just like at the Washington Post where Bob Woodward wrote on his book’s The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat.
Likewise, the Philippine government, just like in the United States where she copy cats many of its law, has a Shield Law called Republic Act No. 1477.
The statute says that “Without prejudice to his liability under the civil and criminal laws, the publisher, editor, columnist or duly accredited reporter of any newspaper, magazine or periodical of general circulation cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news-report or information appearing in said publication which was related in confidence to such publisher, editor or reporter unless the court or a House or committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the security of the State (Section 1).Image result for shield law

I was not spared not to be criticized, just like other columnists, by a few readers why I would not divulge my source but instead contented myself on a “blind item” style of writing.

Hearsay lang iyan, pangalanan ninyo!” One of the readers of my blog audaciously commented.
I told him newspaper writing is not a trial in the court where a judge would require a witness to narrate the incident as he directly saw it and not just like a witness recounting it after he heard it from another person’s narration.
Prudent writer and those writers who were sued with libel, just like me, know what they published because those they affronted could retaliate by suing them with either the heftier Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or the probation qualified Ordinary Libel found in the Revised Penal Code.
Being sued with libel is not about badges of honor to a responsible reporter but a hassle as one would look for monies to bail out himself in the slammer through ten thousand pesos for every count of the written defamation filed against him and scrounge for tens of thousands of pesos for the acceptance fee of a private lawyer if he wants to avoid the free but overworked lawyer of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to defend himself in lengthy trial that runs up to more than ten years, since hearing now is held once in two months at the RTC, after the Supreme Court finally decides on it, the thousands of pesos in every appearance of his counsel in court that usually ensues once a month, and the expenses and inconveniences of hiring a body guard every time he attends his court hearing since those he offended already knows the pattern of his itinerary.
It would be worse if an offended party just like Department of Agriculture & Fisheries Secretary Manny Piñol wanted to hold the hearing at Kidapawan City, after he charged Baguio City based reporter Frank Cimatu.
Piñol resides in that Mindanao city.
 He sued Cimatu in September last year when the reporter accused him at social media site’s Face Book with corruption.

With Kidapawan as the situs, gee whiz, that’s a Mother of All Inconveniences since he would be travelling for almost a day in busses and plane rides from Baguio City to that place vice versa. Unless Cimatu wanted to avoid those hassles by relocating his abode somewhere at the foot of Mt. Apo in Kidapawan, then we would not be talking here about travel inconveniences.
Thank God that Piñol’s lawyers filed the cyber libel at Quezon City after probably reading the jurisprudence on Bonifacio vs. RTC of Makati (G.R. No. 184800, 5 May 2010) where the Supreme Court said that if the offended party is a public official like the complainant, the criminal case can only be filed in either of two places, namely: (a) in the place (whether in or outside Manila) where he holds office at the time of the commission of the crime; or (b) where the alleged defamatory article was printed and first published.
     The DAF main office is in Quezon City.
But the Secretary still persisted on Kidapawan City as he wanted the civil aspect of the crime which would demand monitorial damages in his favor would be filed in that city in Cotabato Province.

Don’t you know that quoting a source without naming the person catapulted some rookie reporters to their present celebrated status?
In one of his countless of books he authored, in the Secret Man, Bob Woodward said he was only eight months as field reporter of the Washington Post in June 17, 1972 when he was asked by the broadsheet’s Metropolitan Editor Harry Rosenfeld to investigate and write the five men clad in business suits, $100 bills in pockets, and carrying eaves dropping and photographic equipment that were arrested inside the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate Office Complex in Washington D.C. Their leader the balding and tall James McCord told Judge James A. Belsen in a hush-hush voice that he was a former operative of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Of course Filipino reporters worth their salt knew that this story was Watergate Scandal that happened in that fateful night of June 17, 1972.
Of course Filipino reporters whose worth can be juxtaposed with the price of salt would be dumbstruck if senior veteran reporters quiz them about Watergate Scandal and its contribution to Filipino journalism.
  The burglary and the installation of those bugs, slang for listening devices, at the Watergate’s office were the handiwork of President Richard Nixon, a Republican, to spy on the Democrat Party’s officials.
But because of the expose’ of Woodward and his experienced co-writer Carl Bernstein, it cost Nixon to resign from the presidency to avoid an impeachment trial by the Senate who were gung-ho to scalp him off as he procrastinated, just like what he did with the U.S Supreme Court, to submit the tapes he installed in the White House, son of gun, to spy with his fellow Republicans.
We Filipinos have leveled up since Watergate.
In the 1970s, when someone mentioned “tape”, people interpreted it as the Watergate Scandal’s tapes.
 Under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration in 2017 and at present when somebody shouted “tape”, we construed it as Senator Leila de Lima and her paramour driver-body guard Ronnie Dayan’s sex tape that until now the feisty president has to show to us its prurient content as he keeps promising in his speeches when he became livid with the matron solon.

While exchanging pleasantries with Bayambang Pangasinan Billionaire Mayor Cezar T. Quiambao at his sprawling mansion, I told seasoned media men Ruel Camba (former Information Officer of the Provincial Government), Jun Velasco of the Manila Bulletin and contemporary of Piñol when the latter still cut his teeth in journalism, Editor Ruben Rivera, others about the source of Woodward he cited as Deep Throat.
“No it was not Deep Throat of the 1970s Eastman Color porn movie with a subtitle: How far does a girl have to untangle her tingle,” I reacted when Cris, the driver of Cable News King Jesse Perez interdicted in a supposed intellectual conversation about the highly sexually charged flick where a pretty female specie swallowed a “police night stick” down to the lowest recesses of her larynx he saw when he was a teenager in Avenida.

The Deep Throat that Woodward got his invaluable information that saw the White House came crashing down was Assistant Director Michael Felt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I told these senior media men in my huge province.
“You know that Deep Throat was the smarting FBI Assistant Director Felt as Nixon did not appoint him to head the powerful agency after the death of the controversial Agency’s Director J. Edgar Hoover,” I said.
The president appointed his protégée Assistant Attorney General Partrick Gray, a former submarine commander in World War II, to head the FBI.
But you did not know that Woodward meet Felt two years before the burglary ensued at Watergate? I posed.
Aksidente lang ang kasikatan ni Woodward, I said in the vernacular.
He met Felt at the office of the National Security Adviser in the White House in the early 1970 when Woodward was a Navy Lieutenant (Captain in the military) and Felt was FBI Assistant Director on Inspection Division.
After that meeting Woodward regularly sought the advices of Felt, his father’s age, who told him not to choose journalism as profession but instead go to law school just like his (Woodward) father.
Felt, a lawyer, told him that his decision to work as reporter was crazy.
Newspapers were too shallow and quick on the draw. Newspapers didn’t do in-depth work and rarely got to the bottom of events, he cited.

Another Post reporter and syndicated columnist, who sourced his information in the government top echelons, was Robert D. Novak.
In his biography's The Prince of Darkness, he said that in his 50 years stint in journalism mostly held at the citadels of power in Washington DC, his sources were Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Bill Harlow, Deputy of State Secretary Richard Armitage, and President George W. Bush’s Senior Political Adviser Carl Rove.
His associations with the last two officials nearly compromised him to jail when he wrote a column naming CIA Operative Valerie Plame who sent her husband former Ambassador Joe Wilson to sleuth in Niger if Iraq Butcher Saddam Hussein really bought uranium there to complete his nuclear missile systems.
President Bush used this alleged uranium purchased to invade Iraq where hundreds of American soldiers died and billions of U.S dollars of taxpayers’ money went to the drain despite Wilson’s dismissal of of uranium sale to Iraq in Niger.
Although it was illegal for anyone in the U.S to distribute classified information without authority as stated in the U.S Code, Title 18, Section 793,Paragraph e, Novak was never criminally charged by a federal investigation because there was no evidence that he knew Ms Plame was covert agent.
In that two and a-half years of investigation he shielded not to reveal Armitage and Rove by citing journalistic privilege under the First Amendment (Freedoms of Speech and Press in the Philippines Constitution).

(You can read my selected columns at and articles at Pangasinan News Aro. You can send comments too at

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