McChrystal Article Raises Questions About Reporters’ Role

BY Hari Sreenivasan  June 24, 2010 at 6:22 PM EST

Rolling Stone’s profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal stirred a storm of controversy that cost the leader of military operations in Afghanistan his job, but also raised questions about how the media operate.

Michael Hastings was a freelance reporter on assignment for the magazine and gained intimate access to the general and inner circle of aides. He reported on their criticism of the Obama administration and their policy in Afghanistan.

Politico raised the idea that Hastings’ position as a freelancer allowed him greater freedom than a full-time staff writer to print disparaging remarks. Gordon Lubold and Carol E. Lee wrote: “…Hastings would be considered a bigger risk to be given unfettered access, compared with a beat reporter, who would not risk burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks.” Politico later removed that section from an article — a move that stirred a debate of its own.

To explore the question of whether beat reporters — assigned full-time to cover a topic or institution — are more reticent to publish controversial remarks in order to maintain good relations with sources, we spoke with Jamie McIntyre, former Pentagon correspondent for CNN. He now teaches journalism at the University of Maryland and writes The Line of Departure blog for military.com. And we hear from Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a journalism training center in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Hear our full discussion: