“What if there’s an operation going on, and then you get in the way?” Santiago said, when asked about CNN’s report. “Maybe there was surveillance going on or something bigger happening—years invested in tracking the bad guy. If it’s an international case, there’s a lot of risk in terms of the time, effort, and money that get put in, so [reporting efforts] could have a negative impact. How you strike a balance? There’s not really a clear reference for that, but if there’s information out there, why not bring it to law enforcement agencies, because you never know what’s in the making. It could help them to do a better coordinated investigation.”

That might be a tough sell for a journalist working on a big scoop, however, and again, it’s not the press’s job to help law officers do theirs. Journalists and cops may often wind up following the same sordid trails, but ultimately, their primary responsibility is to dig up information in a responsible manner and give it public airing, regardless of what may or may not happen in the courts.

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Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.