Unlike the professions of medicine and law, there is no risk of malpractice in journalism. This is not necessarily a bad thing: journalists should not refrain from publishing stories of great public importance for fear of getting sued for malpractice. Daniel Ellsberg's decision to publish the Pentagon Papers is a powerful example of why journalists should not be over-regulated. Bitcoin and other digital currencies may similarly present a case where there is a strong public interest. However the decision to publish a story should not be determined solely by the public's interest, but also by the strength of the underlying journalism. Bad journalism risks doing more harm than good to society by polluting the public debate with unfounded speculation. In this light, Ellsberg's decision remains sound because his research and evidence was both powerful and damning; the Newsweek article's evidence in contrast was of poor quality, based on circumstantial inferences woven into a narrative that winked its conclusion at the reader. The end result is the destruction of the privacy of a very private man, and the distortion of the public debate over digital currencies from its social significance to a meaningless distraction. Worst of all these harms are not borne by the journalist who created them, since in all likelihood she will benefit from the publicity, but instead by other parties. This is simply the cost of journalism that we accept as a society, in the same way we tolerate unpleasant speech by some for the sake of free speech for all. It can be a bitter pill to swallow.
Nakamoto's life seems ruined thanks to the Newsweek article. This quiet and seemingly frail man is being chased down by the media in their hunt for a juicy story. It's amazing how reporting on "newsworthy" stories no longer requires diligent research or fact gathering. I don't know what to think of this development, but I certainly feel a bit sick as I watch the media swoop down on a man like vultures to carrion. It's worse than the antics of the paparazzi, and here we aren't even dealing with a celebrity. Given how sharp the media's claws are, I hope the man can run fast.