While sympathy amongst journalists is strongly in the corner of Chron reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada (pictured at left), who are willing to go to jail rather than name the source of grand jury transcripts in the Barry Bonds steroids case, there’s another side to the story. So says Gregg Doyel (pictured below), national columnist for CBS Sportsline.com, who says that whether we like it or not, the two reporters have broken a law — and judges aren’t free to decide which laws they’ll enforce and which ones they’ll ignore.
“Next time there’s a secret grand jury testimony, what if the target isn’t a muscular jerk of a baseball player but a mobster?” Doyel writes. “And what if the testimony isn’t about something relatively benign like a syringe to the buttocks, but about something evil like murder? And what if, because the testimony was leaked to a newspaper, the witness who testified against the mobster gets killed in retaliation?” Doyel wraps it up by saying this to Judge Jeffrey White: “I hate it that you ordered Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wade to jail. But I understand why you did it. The reporters were doing their job. So were you.” (Photo credits: Top, Brad Mangin, Sports Illustrated; middle and bottom from their Web sites)
David Whitley (left), a columnist at the Orlando Sentinel, says that in reporting the contempt-of-court proceedings against the two Chron reporters, some journalists have forgotten that there are two sides to every story.
“Grand jury testimony is kept secret for a lot of good reasons, like protecting the innocent and encouraging people to speak freely. If you want a threat to society, get rid of those,” Whitley writes. “Everybody knows a free press is vital to a democracy, and confidential sources are vital to a free press. But this concerns only grand jury testimony, not a tipster calling from a pay phone or Mark Felt whispering to Bob Woodward in a parking garage.”