Prior to giving up the anonymous source, O’Brien was being held in contempt and being charged $1,000 per day until she came clean. I felt this was an outrage. O’Brien was standing up for her personal ethics and honoring the agreement she made.
She revealed the source only after the source gave her permission to, which should prevent O’Brien from facing future obstructions to doing her job because she didn’t betray anyone’s trust. She was relieved of her obligations to keep the name a secret by the source itself.
One question that remains for me, though, is was this pursuit of the confidential source warranted? My initial reaction is that it wasn’t. Sure, maybe the story didn’t really need the anonymous source in the first place, but the fact remains it was used and O’Brien did the right thing to keep her word.
Here’s the kicker for me, though: the source didn’t even tell O’Brien his real name.
What good was strong-arming O’Brien? She could have revealed nothing of substance. She still doesn’t know his first name, and the authorities wouldn’t either if he hadn’t come forward and turned himself in.
“The source coming forward at the eleventh hour was astonishing,” O’Brien said in a Globe report. “He saved me. I was prepared to go to jail to protect his identity.”
What does this teach us? Kansas needs a reporter Shield Law. Period.