Well, just one more

I promised I’d stop writing about Cleveland. But as a dishonorable blogger, I honor no promises….

Jay Rosen summed up what I was trying to say in one eloquent line; he has a habit of doing that: “Advice to newsroom people: if you’re caught up in a situation that appears to pit journalists with ethics against bloggers who ain’t got none, you may actually be facing a conflict between one ethic and another, and it would be good to find out what the ‘other’ is before deciding what to do.”

Danny Glover thinks I was tough on Cleveland — we do disagree — but note that inherent in what he says is the bloggers’ ethic of transparency. He says the blogger erred in not disclosing his donation — though I do believe he hadn’t written about the campaign in question yet. And the paper didn’t ask them to disclose all their ties and donations. But note that if the paper had, then it would set a precedent — welcome from my viewpoint — of requiring such disclosure of all its staff members as well. So Danny is operating from the other set of ethics.

Now go to Adrian Monck in London, who is far away from Cleveland, he’ll be happy to tell you, and is writing nothing about it. He’s writing instead about the BBC and its 12 pillars of behavior and ethics, including this one: “Impartiality is no excuse for insipid programming. It allows room for fair-minded, evidence-based judgments by senior journalists and documentary-makers, and for controversial, passionate and polemical arguments by contributors and writers.” Adrian’s response: “Get that? Journalists – fair-minded, evidence-based. Contributors – controversial, passionate and polemical. Helpful, eh?”

This entire tale is not about one tribe having ethics, the other not. That’s what was so grossly insulting, self-centered, and truly self-righteous about the Plain Dealer’s treatment of the bloggers. They thought the other guys didn’t have any. Instead, this should be about one tribe trying to understand — and learn from — the ethics of the other. The Plain Dealer didn’t try. That is its loss.


  • polemical = the art or practice of disputation (contradict, question)

    maybe save ya the trouble of the lookup

  • What, no link to my response, Jeff? I’m sure that was just an oversight because linking is a pretty widely accepted ethic of the blogosphere, as Jay Rosen noted in his post, and you’re usually good about linking, even to those with whom you disagree.

    You are correct to note that I’m operating from “the other set of ethics,” at least in so far as it pertains to disclosure. From the days I worked at a newspaper in West Virginia in the late 1980s/early 1990s, I have always believed newspapers would be more valuable if political reporters (and editors) had to disclose their leanings. I don’t believe reporters should have to say for whom they vote — anonymous balloting is as American as a free press (for most of our history anyway) — but they should have to say what their registration is and what views they hold about issues. And they probably shouldn’t be allowed to cover the party they support. The best journalists are skeptics — trust but verify — and it’s hard to be skeptical of people whose views you share.

    On the issue of contributions, I lean toward the journalistic ethic that people who cover politics should not be allowed to contribute to candidates. The appearance of impropriety is strong and the potential for corrupted copy is too great, disclosure or not.

    Where would you draw the line? One-hundred dollars is OK but not the $4,000 a rich blogger could give per candidate, per election (and yes, it’s possible to be a rich blogger because most political bloggers work in professions other than journalism)? What about a blogger who paid a candidate $4,000, and funneled another $12,000 through his wife and two kids? It’s all perfectly legal, according to federal election law, and lots of rich people do it. But it could well ruin the reputation of the newspaper for whom that blogger wrote.

    That said, I’m not firmly convicted one way or the other right now about whether bloggers who write for newspapers should have to adhere to the journalistic standard against political donations. I’m personally not comfortable with it and probably wouldn’t let bloggers do it at a publication I ran — but I would make that clear up front and I might be able to be persuaded otherwise. I want to see how this media convergence plays out — and how well Cleveland-like experiments work in other places (if the curmudgeons don’t take shelter) — before taking a firm stance.

    If corruped copy isn’t the end result, and if readers become comfortable with the idea so that the appearance of a conflict fades, then I’d happily say it’s time to rethink that particular ethical standard and update it for our modern media age.


  • Sorry, Danny. Yes, of course, I link to that with which I disagree. I just screwed up. Link’s there now. Thanks. j

  • If you had even the most elemental sense of balance, you would see in a moment that neither side in this sad situation appeared to be trying too hard to understand where the other was coming from. They’re both at fault, in almost equal measures.

  • John – your comment is your perception and I know because I lived through it.

    Please stop perpetuating this idea that we didn’t try too hard to understand where people were coming from.

    I don’t know what happened between Jean and any editor at the PD, but I know what went on between Jean and the four bloggers.

    Your perception belongs to you. But it does not reflect the experience of the people involved, meaning, at a minimum, myself. I’ll left Jeff, Tom and Dave describe it for themselves.

  • Actually – I will correct myself – Jean did share some of what went on between himself and Susan Goldberg, but he’d have to be the one to write or speak about that. And I do not know how much of that I even know.

  • Pingback: Jeff "Columbo" Jarvis: Just one more thing on Wide Open | Writes Like She Talks()