Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Into The Ethical Woods

I'm not going to pile on. Really I'm not. Although given the past arrogance of Georgia Politics Unfiltered owner Andre Walker (eagerly chastising his fellow bloggers, not crediting those who get a story first, not so humbly bragging about his traffic in comparison to others and perhaps tellingly not supporting his fellow bloggers unless they are associates), it would be easy to do. Wait, maybe I just parenthetically did.

But there is a bigger issue at play here.

Atlanta Progressive News outing of Andre as a stooge for the David Scott campaign exposes every person who writes about politics through the veil of a blog to criticisms we've all heard too often. Only this time, the nabobs can roll out an actual incident as proof. The already steep hill which we travel just had a Sisyphus stone added.

Ken Edelstein, Editor of Creative Loafing:

For that matter, how can the average reader even tell who bloggers actually are when they use pen names like Rogue109 (another Peach Pundit poster) and decaturguy? It’s a principle of the blogosphere that people get to be anonymous. That may be an unavoidable part of the nature of the medium. But if influential bloggers are anonymous, how can you where there bread is buttered?
I've already covered anonymity. It is a fact of life of online existence and it would behoove us all to understand it. To not and continue using it as a rhetorical baseball bat instead of scalpel would be as fair as me using the term journalists so generally as to cover both Seymour Hersh and Jayson Blair. It is neither fair nor accurate. Terms I'm sure Edelstein and his fellow print jockeys treasure.

But it is fair game. And due to Andre's sin, all the careful work of the past years trying to bridge this gap of understanding may unravel. Andre credits few but now his actions have tarred many.

And of course the act of one stray in the herd leads others to the trough of self-loathing.

Juliana Illiari of Blog For Democracy:

"I don't think anyone who blogs believes there are standards and practices right now. You'd have a hard time finding anyone who could agree. It's basically, use at your own risk this information, by virtue of its very nature. Anyone can get them, they're free. You read it and you have to consider what the opinion is"
Love ya, Jules, but that isn't quite right. True, the blogosphere is the free market of ideas gone wild and you will never see me shy away from telling people to obey caveat emptor. However, there are some rules that anyone who dares use the word "publish" with their work should follow. They are plain common sense and we all know them.

Two words for all bloggers: Source and disclose.

Sourcing is the murkiest of waters for bloggers. By the very open nature of the online world, bloggers receive information as clear as press releases and as opaque as anonymous tips. It is up to each blog to determine its standards for publication. However, the further one goes down the dark hall of anonymity, the greater the risk becomes. Andre experienced this less than deadly sin earlier this year by publishing a story based purely on anonymous sources. The poorly sourced house of cards quickly fell apart and Andre issued to my knowledge the first open retraction in the history of the Georgia blogosphere.

Disclosure is much easier. If you wear a sock puppet don't pretend your arm magically turned into a talking creature. If you take money tell your readers. Sock puppetry is one of the deadly sins of the online world. Few recover crossing this hard line.

Given his rather public penance, Andre may have survived the first sin, but given the severity of the second, his credibility may never recover.

And thanks to his latest "contribution" to the our little world, we will all be required to work a little harder.

My own disclosure: I've never taken one penny of money from a campaign or anyone else. The closest money has ever come to my little world was a brief period where I consulted for Insider Advantage on strategies to approach bloggers. Something which I fully disclosed at the time.


Anonymous said...

As is so often the case, I wasn't fully quoted. Oy Vey.

What I went on to say in a very crowded very loud airport terminal in DC on a Sunday night with half the free world listening to me...

Was that I'm not a journalist, never pretended to be be one and don't play on on tv. At our blog we have rules, and for the most part if we want to retain our credibility we source material.

Oh and I said very emphaticly that I haven't read Andre's blog in over a year, so I don't know what he was saying.

I also said that they could could check in with any number of other folks in the "sphere" they certainly didn't have to listen to me.

Alas I may have been the only one who picked up the freaking phone on a sunday night at 6:30. Obviously will not be doing that again any time soon.

over and out..

Amber Rhea said...

Great post, grift, and great comment, Jules. Just amen all around. And Edelstein's comment is over-simplified rehashed BS and I think he probably knows it.

Unknown said...

Glad this is all coming out. But, seriously, did anyone in the Georgia blogging community believe/trust anything Andre ever wrote? Well, unless it was about DPG bylaws or Roberts Rules. But, my JT can do all that too and he's a lot smarter/cuter/funnier/nicer.

Amber Rhea said...

I just noticed Scott Freeman called you Driftgrift. LOL!