Taxonomy: Joe Muto is the Malcontent Mole

Thanks to Joe Muto's brief reign as the "Fox Mole" we know that Fox's New York HQ has old computers and crummy bathrooms and have been treated to a photo of Bill O'Reilly on a boat with a topless woman. Not bad, but so far Harold "Kim" Philby's legacy is safe. In a column Wednesday, Jack Shafer talked about how darn easy it is to get journalists to leak: "Leaking comes naturally to them because they spend so much time drilling for their own liquid assets, because they’re in the information-trading racket, because they thrill at the sight of transparency, and because they love to defy authority, especially when the authorities are the ones who sign their paychecks."

But even those narcs have different motivations. Maybe they hate their editor or their publisher, or they feel their employer has failed them in some other different way. (And if you fall into any of those categories, don't be shy about emailing me!) With an exaggerated tip of the hat to Poynter leadership guru Jill Geisler, who suggested this piece, here's a brief taxonomy of workplace moles.

The Whistleblower. The most noble of moles, this person defies workplace confidentiality because he or she believes the public will benefit from revealing their organization's malefaction. Examples: Daniel Ellsberg, Jeffrey Wigand, Marc Hodler, Karen Silkwood, Coleen Rowley.

The Self-Promoter. Leaking provides this person not only the chance to right a perceived wrong but also a shot at a lucrative second career as a cherished truth vigilante. Examples: Julian Assange, Greg Smith

The Chessmaster. A machiavellian mole, this person is a world-class grand schemer. The journalist this person chooses gets scoops; the Chessmaster gets to eliminate rivals and/or settle scores. All results redound to the Chessmaster's advantage. Example: Mark Felt

The Malcontent. This person enjoys embarrassing their employer and may leak without thought toward the consequences (or collateral damage to their coworkers). Also known to media reporters as a stone-cold hero. Examples: Like I'm gonna reveal my sources.

The Babe in the Woods. The person who doesn't check whether she's included a reporter on an email advising a client not to talk to a reporter, for example, or the person who accidentally posts top secret information on the Internet. Not generally interested in helping you out a second time.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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