A question of ethics

Recently, I received an e-mail from someone with one of the presidential campaigns. (No, I won’t say who. It’s utterly irrelevant.) It was polling figures, showing that their candidate was doing better than before.

But above that were three little words that irritated me.

Not for attribution:

This pushed my buttons on several fronts:

1) I have, repeatedly, expressed my contempt for polls. I don’t cite them, I don’t follow them, I don’t give a rat’s ass about them. There is one and only one poll that matters: the one with 100% actual voter participation, the one that actually determines the results.

B) I don’t like stuff that is labelled “Not for attribution.” If you’re going to give me info, then stand behind it. I’ve used information from people who wanted to remain anonymous before, but in that case the person had valid reasons for wanting to remain that way. I also verified the info on that case myself before I wrote anything; my tipster merely pointed me towards the info.

III) I don’t like fait accomplis. In the above case, “Skippy” e-mailed me and asked for confidentiality before offering me the info. In the more recent case, the disclaimer was right at the beginning of the info. I’m a very fast reader, so I was well beyond the notice before it registered with me.

I’ve had a couple temptations when this sort of thing occurs:

1) Write back a “Not for attribution: FOAD”

2) Publish the stuff anyway, saying “Joe X of the Y Campaign wants people to know this, but not to know it’s from him.”

In this case, I sent back a moderately polite demurral, with my reasons above outlined, then followed it up with a thank-you for giving me this topic.

So, I toss this out both to readers and other bloggers: what would you consider the appropriate response to such tips?

I’ve already got my answer, which I’ll publish later today, but I’m curious what people think.

The Dubya Standard
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