Amy Schatz's article on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal (subscription only) details the successes and failures of a trio of Democrat bloggers in New Hampshire. Their blog, Blue Hampshire, only gets about 800 hits a day, but it has managed to weave itself into the fabric of the primary race.
The piece speaks to many of the questions that we are struggling with here, namely, what are the ethical obligations, if any, of disclosure, sourcing and independence associated with political blogging. For instance, the Blue Hampshire bloggers recently endorsed Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. As Schatz reports, however, the decision to do so came after a series of snubs at the hands of the John Edwards campaign. Dodd's people, on the other hand, made a concerted effort to woo the Blue Hampshire bloggers.
"Mr. Dodd and his staff have actively courted the Blue Hampshire bloggers. Mr. Browner-Hamlin, the blog-outreach staffer for Mr. Dodd, regularly posted items on Blue Hampshire. In one, he wrote enthusiastically on Mr. Dodd's website about meeting the 'renowned bloggers' at a New Hampshire Democratic party event. Phone calls and daily emails to the bloggers with tidbits about Mr. Dodd's activities led to a steady stream of items on the Blue Hamphsire site."Were we talking about a newspaper, this type of relationship would certainly be cause for suspicion and no editor in their right mind would allow it to continue. All journalists have sources, and all journalists are occasionally cheesed off at being snubbed or ignored. But journalists don't typically make endorsements. Is this a breach of journalistic ethics? Should bloggers be held to that standard?
[Added: Link to Amy Schatz's article.]
[Correction: "...the Blue Hampshire bloggers recently endorsed Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd" is inaccurate. Only Managing Editor Dean Barker endorsed Dodd.]