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My postings, my rules

Earlier, I discussed a potential ethical dilemma I -- and other bloggers -- are likely to face as the presidential campaign heats up. The problem is that certain traditions have been established between political campaigns and journalists, ones that govern how they interact. These traditions have been worked out between the two camps, and have served both fairly well for some time.

The problem is, the campaigns are playing by those same rules with bloggers, and we aren't journalists.

In the earlier piece, I mentioned how one person affiliated with a campaign had sent me some stuff (which, I admit, I found exceedingly dull -- "here are some polls that show our candidate doing great, and this other one tanking!") preceded by "Not For Attribution." I declined the "tip," but that was in large part swayed by the fact that it was the sort of info I don't give a rat's ass about. I don't cite polls, I don't like polls, I don't care about polls.

But what would I do if I got a tip that was really, really juicy, but saddled with the same conditions?

"Hey, Jay, Rudy Guiliani here. Here's a video of Dennis Kucinich running down baby seals in an SUV. Just don't tell anyone where you got it."

My instinct in that case would be to toss up the video, with a note saying that Rudy Guiliani wants you to see this -- but doesn't want anyone to know he was the source.

On the other hand...

"Jay, this is Barack Obama. I have this video clip that you would love to post, but you can't let it out that I gave it to you."

"I can't do that without some more info. I promise I won't repeat it, but can you tell me what it's about and why you don't want your name attached to it?"

"It's from a 'Girls Gone Wild' video. It shows Mitt Romney with a cigar and a rum and coke, wearing a 'Che' T-Shirt, while a bunch of girls flash the camera."

"Yeah, I'd definitely want to see that video -- and post it. But why don't you want anyone to know you supplied the video?"

"Because I was there, too, and my wife would kill me if she found out."

In that case, I'd most likely keep Obama's name out of it, and run like hell with the video.

The difference, I think, is that in the first example, I was not given the chance to accept or refuse the conditions before I was given the tip. The tipster gave me the info, then attempted to retroactively put strings on it -- and I don't play by those rules.

It's similar to the laws that banned "negative option" marketing. "Here's a widget. If you like it, we'll bill you later and send you another widget each month. If you don't like it, send it back." Um, no. Thanks for the widget, but I never asked for it, so I'm sure as hell not going to pay for it. Send me any more, and I'll keep them, toss them, or refuse them -- but there's no way I'm going to pay for stuff I never asked for and never agreed to pay for.

It's also why I loathe the CAN-SPAM act. It's negative option marketing -- "Here's our ad. We'll keep sending you these ads until you tell us to stop. Hope we don't overflow your e-mail box in the meantime."

So here's my clear rule: you want to send me tips, be my guest. But unless I agree beforehand to any conditions, you can expect that I will ignore it, use it, fisk it (I'm most proud of my fisking of Michael Moore), or attribute it however the hell I feel like at the time. Once it enters my mailbox, it is my property and you have given up all rights to control it.

If you don't like those conditions, feel free to shop your tips to someone else. There are a zillion other bloggers out there. Hell, there are easily a dozen or so just within the Wizbang network.

I know it isn't some grandiose statement of principles, but it meets the most important condition: I can live with it.


Comments (8)

So, who's tanking? Just a ... (Below threshold)
kim:

So, who's tanking? Just a hint, now. You've already said this much. OK? Please? I'll clean my room.
===============================

I like the attitude of your... (Below threshold)

I like the attitude of your post and to those whining ...tough.
Thanks for not being a journalist...I don't like the rules that they play with. I prefer not lying, not covering up, not being politically correct, and not sabotaging the right on everything, while looking away for the left.
So I look forward to the way that this situation will play out!

LOL That is probably the re... (Below threshold)

LOL That is probably the reason you won't be getting any juicy tips from the major players then! LOL

c.a.marks is correct (or I'... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

c.a.marks is correct (or I'm taking his comment sraight; LOLs confuse me!)
Jay, do you want to play Ben Bradlee? OF COURSE you do! I would!
So playz it how it layz; break the Wizbang ceiling, meaning: Wizbang is popular but not yet a Player (except among warblogs, but warblogs are waning, and too self-refential). Take a cue from Kevin and his wise triangulation branding strategy. INFORMATION is the what blogging is all about, from "timewaster" to Breaking News, it's all good (if not, scroll down, right?).
So if you get fed spin, that too is valuable for the entertainment and insight the reader might glean from it.
Plus, too tight a control on message will inevitably lead to greater chagrin, than a bum tip that is more easily addressed quickly.
Remember, Gorbachev was the last one to know he was no longer First Secretary. Got fired by the Mayor of Moscow(!!!) Yeltsin on live TV.
Stayed in The Bubble too long, if even by a day.

c.a, you'd be surprised wha... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

c.a, you'd be surprised what shows up in a bloggers' box these days.

I did a radio interview in 2005 regarding the 2008 Presidential race with a Japanese news syndicate, who apparently confused me with being some kind of political authority.

Next thing I knew, I was getting mail from other Japanese news agencies, in some cases asking for opinions on Japanese political races. I tried to explain that I only wrote about U.S. politics, but I still get similar requests from time to time.

One thing about the Blogosphere - it's not same ol' same ol' for everyone.

"If you don't like th... (Below threshold)

"If you don't like those conditions, feel free to shop your tips to someone else."

Excellent point and notice given! I hope in the heat of the debate you get swamped with interesting stuff from either side. If they won't stand behind it then that's their problem.

Jay,The Girls Gone... (Below threshold)
Ken:

Jay,

The Girls Gone Wild scenario bothers me. Why would you allow one candidate to gain an advantage by allowing yourself to be a conduit for a negative story about an opponent, while you distort the facts to keep the perpetrator shielded when he did the very same negative thing? This is just the type of distortion that destroys the credibility of the MSM.

Did I read that right? If ... (Below threshold)
Rickbert:

Did I read that right? If one politician gave you evidence of something that would hurt an opponent, you'd keep his name out of it if he told you his reason for wanting anonymity was because he was guilty of the same thing?!? Just because he said 'pretty please' first?

At some point, the niceties of negotiating confidentiality up front take a back seat to the motives and ethics of those asking for it. Why give these guys an incentive to be hypocrites, it's not like they need one or anything.

Maybe you didn't mean to use that kind of example, but to the extent the whole 'not for attribution' schtick is a tool to avoid ethical accountability, all the more reason not to tolerate it.




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