Publishing Other People's E-Mail

From comments:

I'm a huge fan, but, I think Dan W and tlc got it right. Just what was wrong with GG's behavior here? You're acting as if the email in question was sent to GG from JK in a clearly off-the-record exchange.

What journalism school did you go to, that teaches the precept that information that you receive is unpublishable merely because it came from a source that the emailer thought was off-the-record? And, a listserv email? Please.

"The problems inherent in a list like journolist (confidentiality, chief among them), is another discussion, in and of itself."

WTF. In the context of your complaint against GG, that is THE context. I must admit, the merits of each one's arguments aside, you really blew this one.

Part of the problem here is that I didn't go to a journalism school. In fact, I barely went to any school. But that said, I think this sentiment is expressed quite a bit in the thread on Klein and Greenwald. As always, it's worth revisiting what I've written:

I can't really think of an instance where I'd publish someone's off the record e-mail. I'm a Greenwald fan, obviously, but I don't see much difference between what he did and what Mickey Kaus did a few months ago. The problems inherent in a list like journolist (confidentiality, chief among them), is another discussion, in and of itself.

It's worth noting that I did not claim that Greenwald was "wrong" for publishing Klein's e-mail--I said that I wouldn't do it. This isn't merely parsing. I said it because I can't find anything objectively "wrong" with it. Bearing that in mind, it's worth explaining why I wouldn't do it.

First, some context. I was on journolist for a while, but left. I didn't leave because any particular beef with anyone, as much as I left because I was uncomfortable being in a virtual club, where the discussion often turned pointedly personal. This is true of all clubs, virtual or not, so I don't think it's specific to journolist. Moreover, the vast majority of the people on the list did not do that, or rather, (like me) tended to lurk. Still, I didn't like being "in the room" when the personal stuff was going on. I didn't want to be party to it, in any shape.

My technique, rightly or wrongly, is pretty old school--if someone forwards me an e-mail recording something nasty you've said about me, and if it really bothers me, I will speak with you directly. If it's not about me, or it doesn't bother me, then I don't think I really care. That's between you and whoever you're talking to, and I hope I'd treat it as such. I just don't know why I'd go public with it.

These aren't rules of journalism, they're rules of Ta-Nehisi. I don't want to be in business of printing people's various musings, which they expected (rightly or wrongly), to remain private. It just isn't what I would do. Simple as that.

For me, nothing good comes from rummaging through other people's closets. This very discussion is evidence of that. My first impulse was to let it be. That was probably the correct one.