Saturday, January 15, 2005

Ethics indeed

I've been reading about the Kos/myDD dustup with some interest, even though it only affects me peripherally (I only take money for the publication of my work, and decline all ads). I do think the ethics of blogging is an evolving thing, but it might not be bad to establish.

More troubling is that the whole brouhaha reflects yet again the breakdown in ethical standards for the mainstream media -- in this case, the Wall Street Journal, which ran the piece that set off the controversy. It included this paragraph:
A spokeswoman for Mr. Dean said the two bloggers hired by the campaign did nothing unethical because both disclosed their connection to the Dean operation.

Now it turns out that, according to the "spokeswoman" cited here, she said no such thing. According to today's post by Kos that quotes her comments at Dean For America:
Jeanne's colleagues committed a journalistic no-no: they took her background conversation with me and made up a quote from "a Dean spokeswoman". Their fake quote had this spokeswoman apparently admitting that the bloggers were paid for promoting the campaign. They completely mischaracterized our conversation -- and Jeanne was rightly upset about it. I was, and am, too.

Since a distorted version of the conversation has been put in print, I'll tell you what was told to Jeanne when she asked what the story was with the campaign and these bloggers.

I said that, as many media outlets noted at the time and a giant disclaimer on their blog said, these guys were hired as technical consultants. Specifically, they helped the Web team pick a technology platform for the blog (Movable Type) and helped manage Internet advertising (banner ads, Google ads, etc.). They weren't paid to write content -- either for the campaign or on their own blogs. And just in case there was any ambiguity, the campaign made sure they had a notice saying "I am a paid consultant for Howard Dean" right smack on the front of their personal blogs.

The only people the campaign paid to write blog posts were full-time staff at headquarters who wrote the content here on Blog for America. They and the rest of the staff at headquarters were people who quit their jobs and upended their lives to work 100 hours a week for a campaign they believed in -- and frankly, compared to "normal" jobs, the campaign barely even paid them. Had the campaign been throwing around cash to people just to write nice things on blogs, there would have been a mutiny in Burlington.

Ahem. I think the Wall Street Journal needs to convene an independent panel to investigate how this clearly fraudulent quote appeared in print in their newspaper. Any former attorneys general handy?

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