The Daily News posted a story last night from today’s paper about Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald’s past. The article, which was titled “Glenn Greenwald, journalist who broke Edward Snowden story, was once lawyer sued over porn business,” also pointed out that Mr. Greenwald was sued in 2003 by his condo board for having a dog that was larger than was allowed by the building’s bylaws (the dog ended up staying), and it outlined some financial difficulties that the lawyer-turned-reporter has faced.
But in a column that ran in the Guardian before the Daily News story was published, Mr. Greenwald scooped the News by explaining that he had been contacted by the paper and going on to give his side of the story.
“The recent journalist-led ‘debate’ about whether I should be prosecuted for my reporting on these stories was precisely the sort of thing I knew was coming,” Mr. Greenwald wrote. As a result, I was not particularly surprised when I received an email last night from a reporter at the New York Daily News informing me that he had been ‘reviewing some old lawsuits’ in which I was involved—’old’ as in: more than a decade ago—and that ‘the paper wants to do a story on this for tomorrow.’”
Noting he expected these sorts of stories to emerge, Mr. Greenwald revealed the less-than-flattering aspects of his own past while getting out in front of the story.
“When I made the choice to report aggressively on top-secret NSA programs, I knew that I would inevitably be the target of all sorts of personal attacks and smears,” Mr. Greenwald wrote. “You don’t challenge the most powerful state on earth and expect to do so without being attacked.”
And those attacks have come in a variety of ways. CNBC host Andrew Ross Sorkin has already apologized for suggesting that Mr. Greenwald should be arrested. Meet the Press host David Gregory was criticized for asking Mr. Greenwald why he shouldn’t be charged with a crime for aiding and abetting Edward Snowden. But dredging up Mr. Greenwald’s checkered-ish past incited a debate among journalists.
“I’m 46 years old and, like most people, have lived a complicated and varied adult life. I didn’t manage my life from the age of 18 onward with the intention of being a Family Values U.S. senator. My personal life, like pretty much everyone’s, is complex and sometimes messy,” Mr. Greenwald wrote, anticipating (or spearheading) the backlash. “If journalists really believe that, in response to the reporting I’m doing, these distractions about my past and personal life are a productive way to spend their time, then so be it.”
The Daily News ended up quoting from Mr. Greenwald’s column in the piece (and using the above in a pull quote).
BuzzFeed also published a piece about Mr. Greenwald last night. Although the profile included many of the same details as the article in the News (including more incidents in which Mr. Greenwald sued his landlord), the reaction to the BuzzFeed article was positive.
Guess when it comes to writing about a journalist’s personal life, giving it the context of a profile goes over better than covering the reporter like a politician. And at least with a politician, it’s harder to get scooped by the subject of the article.