My buddy, fellow newsman/news media critic (retired but hey, once a newsman, always a newsman) Jim Reese called this one right. He jumped all over those in the media who almost immediately speculated that Sarah Palin's announced resignation as governor of Alaska was due to an impending federal indictment.
Reese rightly pointed out that back in the day when things like this were fact checked before they went to print such a story would never have seen the light of day until there was some kind of confirmation.
Any student of Watergate would know that that Woodward and Burnstein's editors demanded additional sources before they would allow unattributable information to be published. Both aspiring young journalists were frustrated by the mandate. But they also rose to the occasion, getting the documentation and verification to be able to break which was, arguably, one of the biggest investigative pieces of reporting in modern times.
That ethic seems to have disappeared - at least for some in the media. It seems that today, all you need to do is get two talking heads on television. One speculating that an impending indictment caused Palin to step down. Another to defend her. And, hey, you've shown two sides of the story. You've done your "job." And you don't even have to do any reporting on your own.
The public, and Palin, are ill served by such reporting. Especially when it's not true.
Today, the FBI is denying that Palin is being investigated.
It's a rare thing for the FBI to comment on whether or not it has launched an investigation. It goes against the grain of tradition and policy. But in this case, a statement was issued because of the speculation that's been burning up the Internet about Palin.
I'm not a huge Palin fan. I felt that she was ill prepared to be vice president of the United States when she was selected by John McCain as his running mate. I take issue with some of her decisions as governor of Alaska and as mayor of Wasilla. But that doesn't give one the right to accuse her of criminality - not unless and until charges are proffered. Even then, in this country, one is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Now let's see if those who Reese identified as publicly alleging criminal wrongdoing by Palin apologize just as publicly. They should. But I'm sure Reese, like me, won't be holding his breath while waiting.