Taking the pledge?

Taking the pledge

: Dan Gillmor asks contributors to his Bayosphere to take a pledge. I respect Dan more than anyone I know in journalism. I know what he’s aiming for, to establish a paragon of citizen journalism, and I respect that as well.

But I don’t know about taking his pledge.

Anybody can nitpick any such pledge or code of ethics. In fact, that’s what I say the public should do in this case. Dan suggests discussing the pledge in a forum. Better yet, Dan, why not put your pledge up as a wiki and see what the people think it should be? Let your public create it. The days of the guys with the power and the presses and the initials — ASNE, APME, NAA, etc. — setting the standards are over. Now the public sets the standards, right? Well, they always did set the standards but we didn’t listen.

Among my nitpiks with this pledge:

He requires us to promise to “work in the community interest.” What community? What interest? Who’s to say what the community interest is? I can only guarantee that I will post in my interest; whether I post in the community’s interest, the community will have to decide.

He requires that I be “fair: I’m always listening to and taking account of other viewpoints.” No, there are some viewpoints I will not take into account and not listen to. I won’t listen to trolls I’ve put on my ignore list. I won’t listen to terrorist sympathizers. I know that’s not what Dan and company are asking with this, but others would. This is the issue with such a pledge: It’s open to such varying interpretation: Someone will say gotcha, you didn’t listen to people who hate America. And I will say: Damned straight, I won’t.

Most of the pledge is very mom-and-Apple pie: I will be open and transparent and correct errors and such. I can’t argue with most of this.

But I would sum the pledge in two words:

Be honest.

Doesn’t that pretty much cover it?

Still, I’m not sure I want to go signing any pledges. Signing a pledge doesn’t make me more trustworthy or more accurate or more decent or more ethical. Either you trust me or you don’t. That’s up to you and it’s based either on my abilities or your fairness. Pledges are not the measure of honesty. Codes are not the measure of ethics. Actions are.

I’m just not a pledge kind of guy. I’m not a joiner. Guess that’s why I am a blogger.