Strange Journalistic Bedfellows

The sober Wall Street Journal and the less-than-august New York Post were the strangest of journalistic bedfellows recently. They both found it fitting to publish the name of the controversial juror in the trial of two former Tyco execs.

That ethical — but not illegal — breach expedited outside contact to Ruth Jordan, the erstwhile juror No. 4. Ultimately such contact, threatening and intimidating, led to a mistrial.

In defense of themselves, both the Journal and the Post noted that Jordan’s identity was available in the public court record.

True, but most people are not about to access such information. And it’s not the media’s charge to I.D. jurors to all its readers or viewers while a trial is ongoing. It’s always the media’s job to cover the news; it’s never their purview to make the news.

Worse than the time wasted and the expense of Tyco II, however, is this cold reality. The arguments of those already seeking to restrict media coverage of high-profile cases have been considerably strengthened. Self-policing and self-interest may now appear incongruous.

Presumably the rationales of the Journal and the Post included the people’s right to know — as in who exactly was recalcitrant juror No. 4. Moreover, that it was the people’s right to know it before the trial ended.

And now, of course, the people also know what precipitated the mistrial.

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