Money, meet mouth

I’m thinking of donating to Clinton’s Pennsylvania campaign. As a journalist that has been a firing offense: the mortal sin of revealing mortal opinions. But I’ve certainly revealed my opinions. I’m a journalist but I don’t work for any such institution. What do you say: venial sin or act of grace?

  • I wouldn’t call it a “sin,” Jeff, but I wouldn’t call it “wise” either. I have no problem with you sharing your opinions. I generally like your opinions, but I happen to disagree with you about Hillary. No big deal. I just wouldn’t encourage you to waste your money on her failing campaign ;-)

  • that wasn’t the question, steve. it wasn’t whether you approve of my choice. it’s whether journalists can and should now put their money where their mouths are.

  • I think showing bias of any kind on a given subject eventually leads to questions of objectivity on all subjects. It’s hard to believe you can report on some topics without bias and others with overwhelming bias (donating money is a strong signal of overwhelming bias).

    So, it depends on how much you value your role as a commentator (which welcomes bias) or as a reporter where it would start to undermine your credibility. As you mention you’ve already made your thoughts known so maybe the latter is already compromised.

  • Journalism is dead – we need a new word to describe reporting the news with ethics and professionalism while transparently including oneself in the storytelling process, whether that is opinion or perspective or whatever.

    I say live your life transparently, but live it. Go ahead and donate. (apparently $109 million isn’t enough!)

  • Sean says: “showing bias of any kind .. lead to questions of objectivity.” I guess this might be a concern if there were any non-brain-damaged humans who were capable of objectivity. However, given where evolution has taken us, we should simply assume subjectivity.

    Attempts to forbid or hide “showing of bias” are simply obscuring reality. For a journalist to have opinions but to then try to hide them is just a form of lying. It is dishonest and dishonorable. Even if you stupidly consider “having a bias” to be problem, you should still strongly encourage anything that will cause the journalists to reveal such bias.

    Frankly, I’d like to encourage all journalists to do two things: First, contribute to the campaigns of those they support and Second, to *disclose* who they have contributed to. It’s best if we know what their biases are.

    In any case, citizens have a right to contribute to any campaign they want. Journalists are no special class of citizen. They have the same rights and obligations as the rest of us.

    bob wyman

  • Veering off slightly, is this another good reason to move to one central open social register of some sort, so a simple rolling disclosure statement is always with us, burned into our barcodes?

    Veering back, I say go ahead, Jeff, just make sure you update your disclosure once Hillary is out of the race so we know your position going into the fall.

  • Go ahead, Jeff.

    She’s toast; they could use the money for butter.

  • PXLated

    Go ahead, it doesn’t show any more bias than you’ve already declared but it’s throwing money at a loosing proposition.

  • jon spencer

    It is not like your choice was any type of secret.
    I would rather know up front that one gives to a candidate or a cause.

    And now for a couple of rants:

    I really think that todays funding should be completely open and on line from the moment it leaves the donors pocket or account.
    Also where the candidate or campaign spends ANY money should be on line too.

    This part might be a little overboard, but once they are elected or appointed one should be able to do a FOIA on both the public and private accounts of any official using or getting paid by taxpayer money.

  • I think you should. The poor Clintons have hardly any money at all.


  • Jeff,
    Not a problem as long as it is not hidden from public view. Kind of like a while back when Wall Street analysts would recommend stocks. They owned them and were doing their best to convince others to buy it too. Thereby raising the price and making them a lot of money.

    Whenever I watch business shows there are almost always disclaimers saying if the analyst owns or has a direct stake in what they are talking about. Sometimes they do. When that is the case one can look at their analysis with a few grains of salt.

    If you put your cards on the table, your readers will gain insight about your writings, thoughts and ideas. You build credibility by not hiding the truth.

    Honesty and integrity are important. People are skeptical because too often information has been kept hidden.

  • Fuck it. Send her some money. I maxed out for Obama. Once you weigh in as we have, for our respective candidates, why no put our money where our blogs are?

  • It’s the age of transparency. Make it known. Make it clear and disclose it.

    Act of grace? no.
    Venial sin? no.
    Something acceptable? yes.

    If you donate to a charity, does this make you a corrupt journalist? The nature of politics mixing with journalism is along the lines of science mixing with religion; Dawkins dares spake of God and is vilified. Journalist dares contribute to campaign and is…to be determined?

  • If she’s your candidate, you should be able to support her. I think it’s stupid that journalists have to muzzle themselves. Not being able to participate in caucuses or donate to candidates restricts some of our most thoughtful and educated citizens from participating in our democracy.

    I do wish you’d let me try to convince you to give the money to Obama, though. :-)

  • aucontraire

    It’s your money.

    Maybe HRC can put it to good use to find out if people she claims died because they were denied health care in fact weren’t denied at all.

    Just tell her it’s part of your transparency campaign.

  • I’m reminded of a Bush campaign rally I attended as press in 2000. I was standing on the press truck and I asked a reporter if she was a Democrat or a Republican. She looked at me, appalled, and replied,

    “I’m a journalist.” Then she turned and stalked away.

    Her reaction struck me as hilarious. My brand new Canon XL-1 DV camera had gotten me press access to the event. I felt like I was seeing behind the curtain, and she was still playing her role in the wings.

    New journalism asks the reporter to use his or her whole mind to bring us the story…

  • beet

    journalists putting their money where there mouth is – good. clinton on the other hand…

  • I don’t think you should contribute to any candidate if you are a reporter. You need to be hands-off Fair Witness, Jeff.

  • Walter Abbott

    Do it. You’ve never been shy about your support for Clinton, so I see it as no big deal.

    While I’m about as polar opposite from you politically as one can be, I have a very high regard for you and your blog because of your honesty and consistency. You are also one of the few people trained in old-school journalim who has identified the dinosaur-killing asteroid that is coming and speaks up about it. Most of your colleagues simply cower and whimper.

    I don’t see you as a journalist, even though you teach it at CUNY. In my opinion, there is no such profession anymore, if ever there was one.

    There is only information sharing.

  • I don’t see you as a journalist, even though you teach it at CUNY. In my opinion, there is no such profession anymore, if ever there was one. There is only information sharing.

    Walter, while I do in fact agree with you, that information still requires collecting/gathering — who collects it?

  • LC

    If it is unethical for you to contribute to Hillary’s campaign, wouldn’t it also be logically unethical for you to vote for her (or anybody)? Journalists are also citizens, after all.

    You’ve made your choice clear, you are not (as far as I can tell) earning your living by reporting on the campaign, so I can’t see the problem.

    My problem is with all the “journalists” and talking heads who insist they are neutral and objective while at the same time they slant (to be kind) their coverage to favor one candidate over another. And the media’s inability or unwillingness to fess up to their biases is driving me bananas. (In short, I prefer Lou Dobbs’ honest disclosure of his prejudices to Chris Matthews’ absurd & dishonest insistence that he is equally hard on everybody.)

  • sotos

    dowhatyouu think is right – no mater what someone will be pissed.

  • SteveSgt

    I miss Walter Cronkite.

    Sure, Jeff, donate, vote for, and/or rant about the candidate of your choice. But after you do that, just don’t expect me to ascribe any credibility to your reportage of the campaign.

  • Abe

    Is this so hard to understand: The reason that journalists shouldn’t give to campaigns has nothing to do with bias. It’s not about objectivity. It’s about fairness and independence, which requires the appearance of independence.

    You can tell who’s not a journalist: They think the goal of journalism is objectivity, as though not having opinions was somehow possible. Then they point out that it’s not possible. The goal is fairness and independence. Do we always live up to that goal? No. But that’s no reason to abandon it by giving money to politicians.

    No one is claiming that journalists don’t have opinions, though most good ones are pretty apolitical. Instead, it has to do with independence — we shouldn’t be taking sides.

    Appearances do matter. You can be a fair umpire at a baseball game, and cheer when one team hits a home run, but you can’t be a respected umpire; being evenhanded, or fair, requires not only being independent but also acting independent.

    (This, by the way, is why it’s OK for journalists to vote — that’s not a public act of taking sides, because of the secret ballot. But voting in primaries is something journalists give up, because those are party events, and require publicly taking sides. It’s a matter of public record which primary you vote in, and voting in a primary, in many places, requires registering with one party or another.)

    Being independent is no deception. Judges shouldn’t give money to people whose cases they hear; is it a deception for them to avoid this conflict? No.

    Now in your case it gets more complicated. But even an opinion journalist (if you’re a journalist, you’re that) shouldn’t be a rooter for one candidate or another; remain an independent commentator, not in the pocket of either side.

  • PAL52

    It’s an antiquated and useless notion for journalists to pretend they don’t have opinions. Everyone has them. It’s dishonest to pretend you don’t. As a matter of practicing their craft and profession competently journalists cannot let their opinions influence their work any more than a doctor can let a personal opinion about a patient corrupt advice to that patient. Bad journalists who use their position to advance a personal agenda at the expense of accuracy and fairness should be fired, the same way a lousy carpenter should be fired for doing a lousy job framing a house. Slanted reporting equals incompetence. Editors and media bosses should stick up for the quality and integrity of their journalists instead of forcing them to present a false front to the public and acceding to the critics and political pushers who are out to destroy them whether they have opinions or not.

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