Why CBS News held its Brittney Griner scoop for a full week

Washington Post
December 09, 2022

CBS News broke the news Thursday morning of WNBA star Brittney Griner’s release from a Russian prison in exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout — but it came a full week after its journalists learned about it.

After receiving an initial tip Dec. 1 that Griner would be part of a prisoner swap, CBS reporters obtained confirmation from five sources by the following day. But the network agreed to a White House request to hold the news — for fear of jeopardizing the delicate negotiations that led to the swap.

The White House “asked us not to make it public because officials expressed grave concern about the fragility of the emerging deal and feared it would impede the safety — perhaps even put those Americans at risk,” CBS’s chief foreign correspondent, Margaret Brennan, said on air Thursday...

“News organizations certainly should be sensitive to reporting that, if done in real time, could jeopardize lives or sensitive and ongoing operations and negotiations,” said Frank Sesno, a former CNN Washington bureau chief now with George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. “There was not journalistic advantage in breaking the story early if it would have endangered Griner’s release.”

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