All eyes are on Washington these days, as former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney I. Scooter Libby stands trial for lying and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity. Writes David Corn in the Nation: “Scooter Libby didn’t tell Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. Libby didn’t tell Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that she was employed at the CIA. Libby didn’t tell New York Times reporter David Sanger the envoy’s wife was CIA. Libby didn’t tell Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post anything about her. And he said nothing to rightwing columnist Robert Novak about the woman. That’s how the defense in the perjury trial of I. Lewis” Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, began its case on Monday.”
The trial underscores the deep and complicated relationship between the White House and the news media, and tonight on NPT Channel 8 at 8:00 p.m. FRONTLINE presents the first hour of a four-hour special aimed at helping us all understand that relationship. In “News War,” correspondent Lowell Bergman examines the political, cultural, legal and economic forces challenging the news media today. Through interviews with key figures in the print and electronic media over the past four decades — and with unequaled, behind-the-scenes access to some of today’s most important news organizations — FRONTLINE traces the recent history of American journalism, from the Nixon administration’s attacks on the media to the post-Watergate popularity of the press, to the new complexities presented by the war on terror, the Internet and other global forces now changing — and challenging — the role of the press in our society.
In part one of “News War: Secrets, Sources & Spin,” FRONTLINE examines the political and legal forces challenging the mainstream news media today and how the press has reacted in turn. Correspondent Lowell Bergman talks to the major players in the debates over the role of journalism in 2007, examining the relationship between the Bush administration and the press; the controversies surrounding the use of anonymous sources in reporting from Watergate to the present; and the unintended consequences of the Valerie Plame investigation — a confusing and at times ugly affair that ultimately damaged both reporters’ reputations and the legal protections they thought they enjoyed under the First Amendment.