It was sneaky, unpaid, unidentified Huffington Post citizen "journalist" Mayhill Fowler who got Bill Clinton to call the author of that Vanity Fair slam piece a scumbag-and that's just not fair! Newsweek's Jonathan Alter weighs in: "'This makes it very difficult for the rest of us to do our jobs. [...] If you don't have trust, you don't get good stories. If someone comes along and uses deception to shatter that trust, she has hurt the very cause of a free flow of public information that she claims she wants to assist. You identify yourself when you're interviewing somebody,' Mr. Alter added. 'It's just a form of cheating not to.'" Opposing view?

"But to Jane Hamsher, a onetime Hollywood producer who founded Firedoglake, a politics-oriented Web site that tilts left, Mr. Alter's rules of the road are in need of repaving. For starters, she said, the onus was on Mr. Clinton to establish who Ms. Fowler was before deciding to speak as he did. That he failed to quiz her at all, Ms. Hamsher said, was Mr. Clinton's problem, not Ms. Fowler's. As a result, Ms. Hamsher said, the public got to experience the unplugged musings of a former president (and candidate's spouse) in a way that might never have been captured on tape by an old boy on the bus like Mr. Alter.

"'It's hurting America that journalists consider their first loyalty to be to their subjects, and not to the people they're reporting for,' she said. Told, for example, that the Times ethics policy states that 'staff members should disclose their identity to people they cover (whether face to face or otherwise),' Ms. Hamsher was dismissive. In the context of political reporting, she said, such guidelines are intended to 'protect this clubby group of journalists and their high-ranking political subjects, and keep access to themselves.'

"'That,' she added, 'is not the world we're living in anymore.'" [NYT]