Ethical Bloggers

OK, so I re-connected with some old friends that saw my name plastered onto the national news as one of those bloggers paid by Dean, and my brother called me at 1 am last night to tell me he just heard my name on Faux News. And obviously, the whole thing became a soundbite for the MM to smear Dean as equaling Bush's payola of Armstrong Williams. Nevermind that it wasn't the case, or that the facts didn't matchup with the accusations, that's just how things playout in the world of television. Personally, I don't own or watch TV; so except abstractly, it's not really something that's engrossed me by its happening. I'm really more interested in how things play out here within the blogosphere.

One thing here still sucks, and that is, there are a number of bloggers, like Ed Cone, Glenn Reynolds and Jeff Jarvis, whom have blogged this current matter within the "ethics of blogging" realm of discussion they blog about abstractly. But what I've not seen anyone yet blog about within that sphere is the ethics that Zephyr Teachout put on display for the world to see. Sure, she's in that circle, but maybe those bloggers determined to figure out a code or standard for all of us should first reflect on their own ethics in propogating the discussion of this matter within the blogosphere. Reader p lukasiak has a statement for the "ethics of blogging" campus group that I'd concur with:

How to raise ethical questions/issues...

...someone who is seriously interested in a discussion of ethics is not going to do so by raising questions about the ethics of specific individuals.   They will do so by posing a general question.  

Now, if Zephyr was interested solely in the ethical questions involved that she wanted raised during the conference on "Journalism, Blogging, and Credibility" she would have posted something like...

"Most news organizations have a strict prohibitions against journalists taking money from those they write about.   When George Will was paid by a politican campaign with debate preparation, then wrote about the debate in his syndicated column, most people recognized it as a violation of journalistic ethics.

But what happens when a blogger takes money from those he writes about?  Does the subjective nature of blogging change the ethical equation in any degree?   Is there a difference between a blogger who accepts campaign advertising, and one who provides non-political technology assistance to a campaign?   What kind of "best practices" can we suggest to bloggers who want to operate ethically?   Is the presence of an ad, or a general disclaimer, on a website enough to tell the reader that the blogger has a financial relationship with a campaign, or should the existence of the ad be disclaimed whenever the blogger posts about that campaign?"

THAT is how a mature person who is interested solely in the ethical questions involved would have approached the issue.  

What Zephyr did, in fact, was unethical.  Why she is taking part in the Berkman Center panel that will include a discussion of blogging ethics, when she so clearly lacks ethics herself, is beyond me.

I would also like to point out that Taegan Goddard of Political Wire was the only blogger that bothered to email and ask about the accusations before posting them on his blog. One standard of journalism is that you fact-check before you post, but in terms of reporting stories according to journalistic standards, did the others first blogging the story bother to email me asking about the accusations? No. I had to email both Glenn Reynolds and Ed Cone (he owned up) to respond to the accusations, and Zephyr Teachout (she apologized privately, but not publically) to demand she followup with a clarification.

Ponder that blogging ethicists.

The Berkman Center and the Harvard conference blog seem very concerned with figuring out some sort of ethical code for the political bloggers to follow in regards to disclosing clients clients to their readers. Fine, let them go along about their discussions, while we here wage online politics against the Republicans. When it gets to the point where Congress passes a law, and the FEC applies, then (and only then) will it matter in the real world. But if the Berkman center and the Harvard conference blog want a case study on ethics and blogging, well, gmab, look among your own fellows.

Tags: Democrats (all tags)



Blogger or Online Activist
One thing that has bothered me about this whole fake payola scandal and it's implications for bloggers that get paid is that I've never had the term blogger defined to me and I don't think there is a true definition of blogger.  In my opinion, a lot of bloggers do tend to think of themselves as journalists and those that do should try to keep with the same standards as major news organizations i.e. disclosing relationships or taking a leave when working for as a consultant (Which both Jerome and Kos did)

However,  a sizable portion of the blogger community is what I'd classify as online activists.  And in the real world you can hire an activist to help organize your campaign and that isn't a conflict of interest.  So I guess the question for all of us how do you/is it even possible to distinguish an activist blogger from a journalist blogger and what are the implications of either one getting paid?

by AnotherUnemployedDNCStaffer 2005-01-15 07:52AM | 0 recs
Republican Smoke Machine
After making your initial posts refuting the Republcian bloggers and providing  the facts of the situation, I wish you would choose not to be further drawn into the discussions.  I know it is hard to resist when others attack your credibility but you've already successfully defended against those claims.  Now it may be the time to move on.  

In classic fashion, the Republicans sought a distraction from the issue at hand - the Armstrong Williams debacle, not to mention calling off the WMD search - and threw in red herrings for the SCLM to grab.  

by purinola 2005-01-15 07:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Republican Smoke Machine
Yea, I'm fine with moving on. It's no longer a story; that just needed to be relayed those in the group, after the fact.
by Jerome Armstrong 2005-01-15 07:55AM | 0 recs
one additional comment
what kind of ethics does it display when zephyr says she (or that abstract "we") hired you to say nice things about dean?  isn't that in itself kinda slimy?
by annatopia 2005-01-15 07:54AM | 0 recs
thank you!
I have been thinking this & thinking this & haven't seen anyone else say it.  (And haven't bothered to post it in some of the 300+-long comment threads on other sites.)  But what is the real ethics issue here?  To recap:

o From Jerome's POV: he was hired as a technical consultant, with experience in blogs, to help guide a campaign which became noted largely for its use of blogs.  Jerome, I would be really interested to hear exactly what you did with the Dean campaign.  I think the taint of scandal is based on the idea of someone making an unearned buck.  But I'm guessing you worked some regular hours & did some technical grunt work for Dean.  If you don't want to talk about it, I respect that - it may be time to let these threads die out, or you may also feel like you would be defending something that doesn't need defending.  But if it's not an invasion of privacy, I would be honestly interested in knowing what kind of hours you worked for them and what you worked on.

o From Zephyr's POV, as I understand:  The campaign wanted to get some bloggers in its pocket, or at least keep them from supporting another campaign.  Rather than appealing to them with their message, or by including them intellectually (for example, by opening a dialog with their readers through their blogs), they decided the best way would be to give them cash.  To me, that attitude is ethically corrupt, extraordinarily cynical, and goes against everything I thought the Dean campaign stood for -- let alone the high ideals of Zephyr that were the pretense for this whole brouhaha.

In short, if a campaign tries to buy bloggers, who is unethical?  The campaign.  Absolutely unequivocally the campaign.  If we are having any discussion of fair disclosure it should be a responsibility BY POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS TO DISCLOSE their spending, not by reporters to mention their affiliations in every four-line diary they post.

Sorry to rant, but one last thought:  the power of blogs is that there are a million of them, and that they are personal reflections on the events of the day.  That says two things:  of course they are biased, by virtue of being personal, and the reader knows that.  And because there are a million, the reader has no shortage of biased viewpoints to choose from.  I find the sentences that begin "Zephyr has a valid point about the need for disclosure, but..." to be completely false appeasements.  There is no valid point about disclosure here.  A blog is a personal diary, and it is no more or less biased whether its author is getting paid.  (And, I would suggest, no more or less biased than any source in the MSM.)

by emptypockets 2005-01-15 09:39AM | 0 recs
Re: thank you!
The campaign wanted to get some bloggers in its pocket, or at least keep them from supporting another campaign.  Rather than appealing to them with their message, or by including them intellectually (for example, by opening a dialog with their readers through their blogs), they decided the best way would be to give them cash.  To me, that attitude is ethically corrupt, extraordinarily cynical, and goes against everything I thought the Dean campaign stood for -- let alone the high ideals of Zephyr that were the pretense for this whole brouhaha.

I agree - if Zephyr is accurate that the Dean campaign's real motivation for hiring Jerome and 'Kos was some sort of political hush money, hiring them would have been unethical. It was also stupid, because it didn't really work - Daily Kos was quite friendly to Wesley Clark's campaign effort as well as Dean's. But unless 'Kos and/or Jerome knew that was the motivation for their contracts, I can't understand why anyone thinks they did something wrong.

But it's also possible that the only member of the Dean campaign who thought they were buying Jerome and 'Kos off was Zephyr herself. So far, she seems to be the only one who's made that allegation.

by Mathwiz 2005-01-17 08:27AM | 0 recs
Re: one additional comment
What kind of ethics is this?

by Grover Gardner 2005-01-15 10:55AM | 0 recs
While I myself have a blog, I don't really consider myself a blogger
by kydem 2005-01-15 08:00AM | 0 recs
Are blogs falling prey to the media?
Where is the line between blogging and journalism?  The fuzzier this line becomes, the harder it will be to be a blogger without falling prey to journalistic guidelines.  

Bloggers enjoy, and rightly so, the poetic license if you will, to say anything they want.  It is their site, their opinion, their top news story.  Getting straight unbiased news these days (and by biased i mean conservative) is hard to do.  Bloggers provide that needed glimpse into the real world, the real perspective.

In the case of Armstrong WIlliams, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, (worst of all)Coulter, etc, they all try to pass them selves off as mainstream media with real news.  In reality they are plainly distorting the news. for their own benefit.  

Zephyr has betrayed the liberal bloggers and has given ammo to Novak, WSJ, and other 'journalistic' wingnuts.  I applaud the liberal blogs in coming in defense of Markos and Jerome.  

Blog freely, and blog ethically: but DO NOT blog like a journalist.  You are a blogger.  It's your site, your words.


by schweiz8 2005-01-15 08:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Are blogs falling prey to the media?
Even journalism ethics are malleable for Pete's sake. British journalists write from avowed points of view; they check their facts, but know that language is powerful and can influence and they use it to their best advantage.

When RW talk jocks describes themselves as journalists--theoretically following the American journalism tradition that reduces bias wherever possible--it makes me ill.

The Repubs are asking for trouble making this lame comparison.

by leolabeth 2005-01-15 09:09AM | 0 recs
just because of the spelling guy i am
Isn't it Taegon and not Teagon?
by kydem 2005-01-15 08:02AM | 0 recs
Re: just because of the spelling guy i am
Taegan.  Actually.
by schweiz8 2005-01-15 08:31AM | 0 recs
Re: just because of the spelling guy i am
Yea, I corrected that, thanks.
by Jerome Armstrong 2005-01-15 08:36AM | 0 recs
Re: just because of the spelling guy i am
no problem.
by kydem 2005-01-15 08:42AM | 0 recs
better wording, indeed
Reader p lukasiak did write the question in a much better way than Zephyr did in her initial posting (and even in her follow-up postings).  

But, I still admire Zephyr and the important work she has done in the past.  I think people can make a mistake.  It's much easier to word something better when you're not in the middle and when it's a day or so later after 100s of people have chimed in.

As far as I know, this is the only time that Zephyr has named names when she didn't need to.  I would implore the blogosphere and her allies to give her a second chance.

by susan 2005-01-15 08:07AM | 0 recs
Re: better wording, indeed
Susan, it was not the least bit difficult to write what I wrote.  

I think its glaringly obvious that Zephyr had a separate agenda having little or nothing to do with ethics.  Consciously or unconsciously, she raised questions about the ethics of two people who had acted (IMHO) ethically (one can debate whether Kos' disclaimer was sufficient, but to raise questions about Jerome, who STOPPED BLOGGING while working for the Dean campaign, is well beyond the pale.)

From parsing her original post, it seems to me that Zephyr is not so much interested in ethics, as in winning her argument with Kos over ethics---and attempted to pre-emptively discredit Kos's position by putting him in the worst ethical light possible.

by p lukasiak 2005-01-15 09:42AM | 0 recs
Re: better wording, indeed
You are right to the point there, and maybe it's why Zephyr is not out here trying to defend her obviously indefensible accusation against us; but the wider ethical accusation, against herself and who she claims ("we" "our") is the real issue.

Nobody from DFA or the campaign has backed Zephyr up.

by Jerome Armstrong 2005-01-15 09:47AM | 0 recs
Define blogger
define a blogger code of ethics

define the difference between bloggers and journalists.

All of this is an interesting question and someting that probably does need to be addressed in places like Harvard and here in the real world but...

In the meantime... to the best of my knowledge (and certainly no disrepect intended to anyone)...

The definition of a blogger is a person with a web site that likes to blab a lot.

Further defined a "political blogger" is someone with a web site that likes to blab a lot about politics rather than say... Britney Spears or cats or... whatever.

Bloggers are not journalists. Are you? Do you Jerome Armstrong see yourself as a journalist?

If you do then you should do your best to live by the established journalistic code of ethics. If you don't yourself that way, and further do not see yourself in some other established ethical light, then the code of ethics you Jerome Armstrong need to live by is...

... your own.

As is the case with each of us. What are our own standards of ethical and moral conduct? How well do we do in living up to these standards in every facet of our lives?

Until such time as a "political blogger code of ethics" is established or bloggers are defined as and accept the established journalistic code of ethics this is all just so much smoke.

The questions that remain are:

Are you Jerome living up to your own standard of personal ethics?

Is Markos living up to his own standard of personal ethics?

Is Zephyr living up to her own personal standard of ethics?

Are any of us?

Nobody is perfect. Mistakes are made and, as humans, we often fail to live up to our own sense of right and wrong. If we do so consciously and with premeditation then we are doubly wrong. Often times however, we do so with perhaps only a mild sense of unease that we have not identified or have rationalized and justified our behavior to ourselves.

If we are properly introspective, with proper personal humility put self aside, review our own behavior, make amends where necessary, correcting our behaviors where necessary then we are living as good a life and behaving as properly as can be asked of anyone.

This is the Way.

Putting self aside in review of our own behaviors and in review of the behaviors of others.

by Andrew C White 2005-01-15 08:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Define blogger
 Do you Jerome Armstrong see yourself as a journalist?

Heck no, I'm a political warrior.

by Jerome Armstrong 2005-01-15 08:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Define blogger

And the codified ethics of a political warrior are...?

This brings it back down to whether or not you are living up to your own personal standards of behavior and whether you are introspective enough to regularly review where you are failing yourself and then taking corrective action.

End of story and none of our business except to the degree that you might have amends to make to anyone directly affected by actions that you feel did not live up to your own standards... as is the case, or should be, with every living human.

by Andrew C White 2005-01-15 08:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Define blogger
We have the laws of campaigning to guide us.  It's like the old saying, "if you outlaw guns, the only ones who will have guns are the outlaws."  If bloggers want to apply to themselves a code of ethics, there will still be bloggers out blogging neverminding that code (and probably exploiting the medium to their campaigning advantage).

To me, inside the political arena, I don't even want to acknowledge those bloggers working on their ethical crusade for blogging. Like I said, when it gets codified in law, it will matter. I have my own standard sure, and it's much higher than I advocate adopting-- merely upholding the laws of campaigning.

As a Reformed Democrat from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, one wants to win above all, whatever it takes.

by Jerome Armstrong 2005-01-15 09:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Whatever it takes
I always hesitate and squirm a litte when I see that line or comments similar to it. In my own personal standard, the ends do not justify the means and "whatever it takes" can easily be taken across that line. "Whatever it takes" for me stops at the border of my own personal code of morals and ethics. I do not believe it does me or us any good to behave like the opposition in order to defeat the opposition. I know many argue this point. That's ok. It's my own standard. For me it also does not mean being a nice guy that finishes last with a moral victory and a real world loss. It is hard work but one can be as tough as nails and never have to sink to their level.

Anyhow... that's just one of my own personal rants there.

I agree with what you are saying about bloggers that adhere to a code of ethics and those that won't give it a second thought. For me this whole thing is so much smoke at the moment. It makes for a fine ivory tower discussion, one that probably ought to be had as we move along and mature and become more influential as a force in politics, but until such discussions can become concrete and not just an honor system it remains the smoke of ivory towers.

Which leaves us again with the final arbiter of all moral and ethical standards... our own.

by Andrew C White 2005-01-15 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Define blogger
I really think that ethics goes further than "your own personal standards".  I think that the (strongly implied) accusation (which, I hasten to add, appears to be without substance) that Kos was taking money from other candidates while urging his readers to support and contribute to those candidates without disclosing his financial relationship would be an ethical breach----and I think that any blogger who did so would be a far less effective fundraiser in the next election cycle as a result.

And in any discussion of ethics in journalism and blogging, it needs to be remembered that journalists still provide favorable coverage for compensation---only the coin of the realm is now "access"--to candidates, leaks, officials, etc.   Does anyone really consider Bob Woodward to be anything other that a journalist prostitute at this point?  He gets access by ensuring his subjects that he will say nice things about them in his books.  (Larry King is a perfect example of this kind of whore in another medium.)

That is why I find the whole idea that journalists represent some kind ethical standard that should provide a template for bloggers to be risible at best.  Personally, I have more respect for the whore who charges $200 an hour than the gold-digger who marries for money.

by p lukasiak 2005-01-15 11:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Define blogger
The main difference is that journalism has a special place in law due to certain statements in the constitution that protect it. We all know that ethical journalism is suffering mightily today (as it has at times in the past) but along with the protections of the consitution come certain reciprocal responsibilities.

Bloggers are afforded no more protections or responsibilities in the constitution and law of the land then any other person at any other time or place saying any other thing. That is to say that they have freedom of speech but are also subject to libel and slander laws.

I agree completely that bloggers that have any pretence to being taken seriously ought to hold themselves to high standards but as Jerome stated... until there is applicable law... the fact of the matter is that blogging is no different that spouting off at a bar at 2 in the morning with 20 cocktails turning your words into jibberish. "Blogging" covers the whole gamit from politics to britney spears... as it stands today. It would be silly to say that journalistic ethics needs to be applied to some pimply nosed teenaged boys drooling posts over Ms. Spears.

And given the problems in ethical journalism today, as you yourself point out, I would say that it always comes down to one's own personal standards of ethical conduct. A journalist or blogger with high personal standards and awareness will post all appropriate disclaimers. The Armstrong Williams and Matt Drudge's and George Wills of the world will scam their readers and not lose a wink of sleep over it.

It should be different... but it isn't.

by Andrew C White 2005-01-15 03:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Define blogger
I'd have to disagree with the assertion that "bloggers" are separate and distinct from "journalists" under the constitution.

the protection offered under the first amendment is to "freedom of speech, or the press."  To wit:  

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Note how "free speech" and "free press" are part of the same subordinate clause (I hope that's the right term...its been more than 30 years since I had a grammar lesson <G>) set off by a semi-colon?

Another factor to consider is what "the press" meant in the late 18th century.  At that time, "the press" was actually a reference to the MEANS of expression (i.e., the founders wanted to make sure that citizen's freedom to "speak" through printed matter was protected, and was not some kind of special protection of journalists.)  In fact, it was not until the early 19th century that "the press" began being used to denote "periodical publishing, journalism", according to the online etymological dictionary.

by p lukasiak 2005-01-16 02:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Define blogger
I'm not a lawyer so I am speaking from my laymans understanding here but there is a whole body of law built around "freedom of the press" and it is accorded a special role in society as a result of those words being stated separately from the "freedom of speech" afforded everyone. Bloggers are not journalists and they are not "the press." Perhaps they should be but they aren't and therefore they cannot currently be held to the same standards that "the press" is. It's just the way it is. Perhaps it should be different but it isn't... currently. We are still a growing and evolving world and new standards and codes of ethics may yet evolve which is part of what all this bruhahaha is about but as of today Jerome or you or me typing here is no different then us spouting off at a bar at 2am after drinking 20 beers and no different then a teenaged kid blogging about the fantasy world they live in.
by Andrew C White 2005-01-16 07:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Define blogger
again, I beg to differ.

"The press" at the time of the ratification of the first amendment was largely made up of pamphleteers---and today's political bloggers are the exact equivalent of those pampleteers.  

The reality is that the daily readership of Kos and Atrios is greater than the daily readership of most daily newspapers.  And the readership of MyDD is greater than most local "weekly" papers.

The idea that Chris and Jerome and Duncan and Markos are the equivalent of a couple of guys sitting in a bar is a comparison that does not work.  Blogging is creating a new "institutional" form of expression under the first amendment, and the protections afforded the "established" institutional forms of free speech will be extended to blogs.


by p lukasiak 2005-01-16 04:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Define blogger
A "blogger" is a guy or gal who posts a personal diary on a website. A "journalist" is someone who goes to college to learn the journalism trade, then goes to work for a media company (newspaper, TV, radio, etc.) Certainly there is some overlap between the two, but that doesn't make every blogger a journalist!

Most blogs aren't even political, and some of the best blogs mix personal and political posts at the blogger's whim. Since a website is easily affordable, lots of people can become bloggers. Some are better at it than others, and they tend to attract a larger readership.

Journalistic ethics, such as they are, are a code enforced by media companies on their employees. They are not Federal law, and the First Amendment would probably override any attempt to codify journalistic ethics into law, for bloggers or anyone else.

by Mathwiz 2005-01-17 08:55AM | 0 recs
We should take this on
I know that you want to get past this, but I think this can be turned around.  I think this is a fight that the Republican noise machine will lose for two reasons.  First, shining the light on all of the money that is flowing into the media is not something that will work to the Repubs. advantage.  If we are going to look at bloggers, what about Drudge and Sullivan, the Freepers and the LGFer's.  I am quite sure an examination of their sources of income would be interesting.  What about the MSM and all of their paid flacks.  Again, this does not work to their advantage to have this conversation.

The second reason is that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  This flap has just elevated the visibility of your site (and Kos) exponentially.  More and more people are going to discover the bliss of getting information unfiltered by the MSM.  In turn I believe it will further erode their lock on information.

This is a big wave, you should go for it.

by surfk9 2005-01-15 08:31AM | 0 recs
You don't own a TV?
Man are you missing something beautiful.

Take a hammer to the glass. Leave the shards that remain. Toss in a few spadefuls of soil. Add azalea, zinnia and rhododendron seeds. Place on windowsill. In two weeks beauty blooms where once was maudlin emptiness.

by cavanaghjam 2005-01-15 08:34AM | 0 recs
Re: You don't own a TV?
I know you're being facetious, but "taking a hammer" to a CRT isn't something I would advise. The resulting implosion will send shards of glass flying dangerously; you could easily injure an eye ;-(
by Mathwiz 2005-01-17 09:02AM | 0 recs
Re: You don't own a TV?
You're right; and with the ubiquity of warning labels I should have appended one to my statement. OTOH, throwing a boot from ten paces is fairly safe, at least the one time I tried it. The resulting silence was more precious than gold.
by cavanaghjam 2005-01-17 09:38PM | 0 recs
Failing business models, Politicians lying, blame
Hey, corporate world, don't blame us for your out-of-date business models...

Politicians, don't blame us for not believing your lies anymore...

Don't blame bloggers for not having jobs that they can be fired from for posting the latest on the lies..  

In the free software world, they have the GPL

The "GNU Public License" and now, Creative Commons, both of which, in part, basically, say that 'we make no claims'. If blogs have a disclaimer that says that they do not expect the 'credibility' that news outlets claim, nobody can say that they are betraying credibility..

But the US corporate media giants and their syncophants want to blame somebody, anybody, EVERYBODY - for the failure of their business models to remain relevant in the increasingly networked world (even though many profits are up - for example in the music world!) Talk about 'tort reform' haha...

The fact of the matter is that people have been deserting mainstream media for years, for example, young people are watching much less TV, and the advertisers and politicians are very worried that the blogosphere is a sphere where they cannot suppress information at will. (Even as they drive people away from TV!)

For example, in the last election, it seems to be that the GOP had a obscenely cozy relationship with the major media, even those outlets that were supposedly endorsing Kerry..

There, the GOP was able to set the frames such that many important issues were never addressed.. But in the blogoshere, people are discussing things that the mainstream avoids..

I would say these are things like the dismantling of Social Security, the huge Federal debt, the broken healthcare system and many politicians, corporations, 'religious figures' and journalists lack of moral values. Other people would say other things..

At the same time, the big media companies are pushing for laws that prohibit fast forwarding through commercials (the NAB and MPAA already claim that this is illegal!) and for laws restricting the issuing of new broadcast licenses to community groups and others..

They also are making certain kinds of radio receivers illegal.. (or example, all new HDTV-capable receivers will be required to carry hardware to prevent time-shifting, even though the betamax case clearly protected a person's right to fair use.)

There has also been a parallel effort to make webcasting unprofitable.. through lots of surcharges.. Get the picture. You will dink Coke or Pepsi, nothing else...

In the blogosphere, ideas are discussed anonymously, so often people say what they think, not what they feel they need to say to keep their journalists..

In the past, one or two phone calls by a politician to 'the right people' would kill a story.. Now, its not so easy. And that scares them.

Also, the open nature and transparency of the Internet scares politicians because ultimately, this new technology may hold the key to a revitalization of our political system through collaborative groupware..

In other words, we might someday be able to build a giant blog where we all discuss politics, and then effect, becoming our own politicians..

Thats what really scares them...


by ultraworld 2005-01-15 08:42AM | 0 recs
STOP!!! I'm begging you!!!
The more we go on about the ethics, the deeper we fall into the rabbithole that is the right's frame on this.

-- THERE IS NO COMPARISON BETWEEN WILLIAMS AND ARMSTRONG/MOULITSAS.  Taking taxpayer money for promotion of policy may be ILLEGAL and is being investigated as violation of FCC regulations sections 317 and 507.  (I'll bet there's more illegal activity here if we spent our time on this instead of handwringing.)

-- The mainstream media has a conflict of interest in reporting anything contrary about bloggers.  Think about it; their future depends on bloggers being suppressed and staying in their place.  Bloggers getting paid means their journo turf has gotten smaller.

-- Ad nauseum, we've heard that bloggers aren't journalists.  Why are we even discussing a standard of ethics for people who are clearly writers that write from a personal perspective?  Or who are repeatedly told they're not journalists?  Why comply with ethics for something you're not?  Who's going to tell all those teenagers out there bleeding their hearts into their blogs in lieu of a diary that they must adhere to some ethic?  The only ethic that bloggers absolutely must adhere to is being authentic.  Really, do we come to bloggers to read more professional journalism?  or do we come here to get personal about issues?

-- Zephyr has an issue that should be pushed back at her.  If she perceived an issue with ethics (and it is HER perception), she should have aired it during the Dean Campaign and insisted on reciprocal disclosures at both the Dean site and MyDD/Kos.  Zephyr, heal thyself!

Now scramble back out of this frame NOW and put the focus back where it belongs.  How many other professional journalists or media corporations violated laws by taking taxpayer money to promote policy?  It's propaganda and it's ILLEGAL!!

p.s. I've blogged elsewhere about this mess, asking whether we should have ethics for bloggers.  I've gotten absolutely no responses and that's rather unusual, given the venue. [-crickets chirping-] Given this, I am going focus on the PAYOLA and PROPAGANDA.

by RayneToday 2005-01-15 09:00AM | 0 recs
Here's the irony, of course.

There will, of course, be people in the near future who will act less ethically than Jerome and Kos did in this case -- they will continue blogging without disclosure of the money they receive.  It will be ironic that what Kos and Jerome did in this case actually will be used as a benchmark for future behavior -- full disclosure or ceasing the blog.

What strikes me as also ironic is that many of the reports I've seen attempt to provide a different standard of ethics for bloggers than we expect of journalists.  Does Robert Novak or George Will or left-wing pundits disclose honoria fees they receive from trade groups -- trade groups affected by the legislation that Novak and Will or others provide opinions and/or reporting?  What of the money a spouse receives from a political group or a lobbying group -- money that one of course affects the financial status of the journalist or pundit?  Are those disclosed?  Of course not.

I would add another ethical issue in addition to the intelligent ones cited above:  to the extent that a blogger makes statements about the campaign, can one state that the blogger is making statements on behalf of the campaign or just on behalf of themselves?  One of the issues that was odd about the Dean campaign is precisely the unofficial nature of it -- one could put up a blog and state it was "Dean" for whatever and it could be interpreted as a quasi-official statement, even though it was just one person with a computer who decided to post stuff.

by ChrisR 2005-01-15 09:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Irony
Yea, I agree, but I will argue against that happening in some upcoming post.
by Jerome Armstrong 2005-01-15 09:43AM | 0 recs
not all that academic
It's worth noting that a lot of these questions are becoming far from academic. Consider some of the issues that have been coming up lately:

  • to what extent do first amendment protections apply to bloggers, to email, to news postings (not just free speech, but freedom of the press)?

  • who qualifies for press passes (it seems like an awful lot of high-visibility bloggers are being accorded press access to political events)

  • what about confidentiality of sources?

  • what about liability for slander or libel

There's a lot of case law on these issues as regards professional journalists.  The situation is a lot less clear when it comes to Internet communications of various sorts.

Some of these questions are already the subject of legal cases.  

by mfidelman 2005-01-15 09:44AM | 0 recs
My Thoughts
Jerome is absolutely right.  I appreciate the hope of some bloggers that this become a discussion about blog culture, but they are naive to think that a story invented for the sake of partisan obfuscation could be transformed into an honest reflection on professional ethics.  
Indeed, over these last couple days, the only lesson I have learned about blog culture is its growing weakness. One of the things I always loved and respected about that culture (as a avid reader and former writer) was that regardless of political persuasion, bloggers always stood up for one another - a professional ethic the resembles cops more than journalists - and for the integrity of blogging itself. Perhaps that is how it should be, given that blogging's raison d'etre is (in my opinion) more about policing objectivity than objectivity itself (unlike journalists, bloggers wear their political biases on their sleeve - what brings them together is their vocation as watchdogs, not ideologues). Those conservative and centrist bloggers whom I've learned to trust as honest and fair have defended their leftist comrades Kos and MyDD from this bogus attack (among them Andrew Sullivan, Ed Cone, and to a less satisfying degree, Instapundit). But watching Hugh Hewitt - often held up as the blogger's paradigm - completely distort this story - and in his recent posts, question the ethics of Devin Drum, TPM, and other non-conservative bloggers - simply to satisfy his partisan mandate has been downright sad. Indeed, if at the end of this whole bruhaha, one blogger become an example of something, I hope it is Hewitt, not Kos. For it is the latter who has chosen parisian solidarity over that of his fellow bloggers, and through his transgression, made clear one of the blogosphere's most constitutive cultural/ethical expectations.  Shame on him.
by JesseE 2005-01-15 05:11PM | 0 recs
Re: My Thoughts
Towards the end of this comment, I meant to write that it is the former (Hewitt) not the latter (Kos) that chose partisan solidarity.  I accidentally reversed to two.  My mistake.  
by JesseE 2005-01-15 05:12PM | 0 recs


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