Disclose unto us

Micah Sifry is pissed about today’s NY Times op-ed feature on bloggers paid by campaigns. I’m not. I think the more disclosure we have, the better. As I said at the Museum of Television & Radio panel I moderated, on which Micah served, and as I said in this post after the Kos convention, I do think we need to discuss the lines between journalism — that is, the imparting of reliable information, which bloggers do — and advocacy — that is, taking on a cause — and paid consultancy, which more and more bloggers are doing. We, of all people, must be very transparent about our roles and relationships, especially as we demand such transparency of media and politicians. It’s not just about appearances. It’s also about loyalties: Bloggers, I said at the MT&R event, are taking on roles of leadership and those who choose to follow deserve to know whether the bloggers to whom they link are more loyal to a cause or to a candidate and whether their loyalty stems from payment. So the Times charting these paid relationships is doing to us as we would do unto others. Golden Rule, I’d say.

: In the comments, Gray says I should repeat my disclosure that I consult for a Times Company division, About.com. Right, you are.

  • http://www.personaldemocracy.com Micah Sifry

    Jeff–

    Thanks for the pointer. People can read my full argument there. But, in brief, I’m not pissed because the oped by Danny Glover in the Times makes the case for full disclosure by bloggers; I’m pissed because he falsely implies that many of the prominent political bloggers in his charticle failed to disclose on their blogs the fact that they were working on campaigns, when in fact they did. Read his intro and his chart closely, and you’ll see that he’s tarring them all with the wrong brush! That this is an error of omission (Glover admitted to me that the Times’ editors removed a column from his chart that would have shown how each blogger made their disclosure) doesn’t make it any better.

    It appears to me that you are more impressed by Glover’s having tracked down the various campaigns’ payments to the bloggers in question (which by the way are public record as campaigns are required to make these disclosures even if bloggers fail to) than anything else. But look at how Glover and the Times frame the whole piece: with a headline calling this “politics as usual” and a graphic that shows a line going from bloggers to candidates to money to favorable quotes by these bloggers about their candidates to a big dollar sign.

    The fact is that most of those favorable quotes were written by the bloggers in question in their professional capacities as campaign workers or consultants writing on the campaigns’ blogs! Should we be surprised that they’re favorable to the candidates in question?

    By not including clear mention that these bloggers HAD properly disclosed, the Times and Glover does them a major disservice.

    But heck, the Times doesn’t have a double standard when it comes to publishing opeds by political consultants with all kinds of paying clients and listing their affiliations, now does it?

    Micah

  • http://caffeinesoldier.blogspot.com Gray

    “We, of all people, must be very transparent about our roles and relationships, especially as we demand such transparency of media and politicians.”

    Hear, hear. Nothing wrong with that. The only problem is, when someone accuses Bloggers of hiding a conflict of interest, he should have done the necessary investigations to check if this is true. Looks like all of Glover’s charges are untrue and some fast and simple background checking would have revealed this:
    http://pandagon.net/2006/12/03/this-is-the-disclaimer-the-ny-times-failed-to-run/

    Imho Micah is right: You missed the important point here, Jeff.

    Hmm, btw, where’s your disclosure that you’re actually doing work for NYT in this story? Do you think the long list that is linked somewhere else on the main page of Buzzmachine is sufficient, there’s no need to put a statement about a relevant conflict of interest inside the story? That’s an interesting execution of transparency…

  • http://caffeinesoldier.blogspot.com Gray

    “In the comments, Gray says I should repeat my disclosure that I consult for a Times Company division, About.com. Right, you are.”

    Oh, thx. Now, this is exemplary.

    And, sry if I’m a bit hard on you recently, I should add a disclosure as well:
    I’m still p***ed about your story on that single mother of two, who became pregnant with 13 and 14 and is working hard to make a living for her small family. Your story has a very cold hearted touch. Maybe that’s been unitentionally, since your main point was that the author was overdoing the sentiment, but that isn’t the fault of that hard working girl…

  • http://www.conversationsmatter.net Jesse Ciccone

    Gray’s last point deserves another “Right, you are.”