Sleeping With The Source

It’s not just for House of Cards:

Questions remain over whether BuzzFeed News acted ethically with a former employee, Ali Watkins, who had a romantic relationship with an indicted former security director for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Watkins told her BuzzFeed editors about her relationship with the individual, James Wolfe, who the Department of Justice has charged with lying to investigators during a leak probe, according to The New York Times, where Watkins now works as a national security reporter.

BuzzFeed Editor-In-Chief Ben Smith said he would “not comment at all on a reporter’s sources in the middle of an unjustifiable leak hunt” when The Daily Caller News Foundation asked about the extent the organization knew about Watkins’ behavior to corroborate The Times’ reporting. {…}

Later, a BuzzFeed spokesman told TheDCNF that the company does not dispute The Times’ reporting on Wolfe’s indictment, meaning that at last some BuzzFeed editors were aware of Watkins’ relationship with the Senate Intelligence aide.

It was never disclosed in any of the pieces Watkins wrote for BuzzFeed that she had a conflict of interest with an individual that provided her with information. If her editors knew about this relationship, it remains unclear why did they not make this clear to readers or prohibit her from covering the Senate Intelligence committee.

This… definitely seems like a journalistic breach.

To what degree this was all worthy of FBI attention, but that aspect of this story is not without precedent.

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7 thoughts on “Sleeping With The Source

  1. Were the stories good?

    Like, did she get information to the public that, otherwise, the public wouldn’t have gotten?

    Did she withhold information that other journalists decided to provide?

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  2. Was this a real relationship or a “relationship”, and by that I mean was one of the parties getting sex for info or giving sex for info?

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  3. I’m not sure what the conflict of interest is here? She’s a journalist that received information from an undisclosed source that shouldn’t have leaked it. That seems common enough, but what changes if she is sleeping with the source?

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    • If you have a relationship with someone in a story, that relationship generally should be disclosed even if it doesn’t change the story. If someone were to write about a family member, even if they were trying to be neutral, they’d have to mention that relationship.

      Among these reasons for this is that it creates the perception that their could be a conflict of interest in terms of relating the story and the journalist should get in front of that critique. That’s why WP discloses it’s owned by Jeff Bezos every time his name comes up.

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