Media Fellow Barton Gellman Speaks on the Need for Confidential Sources

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

"If we do not know what our government is doing, we can't hold it accountable," said Media Fellow Barton Gellman. In "Secrets, Sources and Journalists after the Plame Case" Gellman, a special projects reporter for the Washington Post, spoke on the need for confidential sources in investigating a story at a luncheon hosted by the Hoover Institution on Thursday, November 10.

"Newspapers cannot appoint themselves arbiters of national security," said Gellman; "political leaders, on the other hand, cannot be allowed to decide for us what we need to know about their plans." He added that, "in practice, today, secrets are kept or broken by a process of competition." The information obtained in this free market process, as Gellman called it, is further researched to confirm it is true.

Gellman said he has used confidential sources in researching and writing articles. "There's nothing more central to the work I do than the development of confidential sources," he said. "It would be practically impossible for me to write the stories I write without those sources."

Gellman was the Robert and Susan Ohrenschall Media Fellow while in residency at the Hoover Institution. Gellman shared the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2002 and has been a jury-nominated finalist (for individual and team entries) four times. His work has also been honored by the Overseas Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Newspaper Editors, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and SAIS-Novartais Foundation for international journalism.

The William C. and Barbara H. Edwards Media Fellows Program allows print and broadcast media professionals to spend time in residence at the Hoover Institution. Media fellows have the opportunity to exchange information and perspectives with Hoover scholars through seminars and informal meetings and with the Hoover and Stanford communities in public lectures. As fellows, they have the full range of research tools Hoover offers available to them. More than 100 of the nation's top journalists have visited the Hoover Institution recently and interacted with Hoover fellows on key public policy issues, including

  • Jonathan Decker, Reuters Television (in residence October 31–November 4)
  • Glenn Kessler, Washington Post (October 31–November 4)
  • Mike Boyer, Foreign Policy (October 31–November 4)