Thursday, November 1, 2007

Bloggers Getting (Too?) Cozy With Candidates in NH

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.]


Laura said...

Ethical bloggers fact-check. You write that "the Blue Hampshire bloggers" endorsed Dodd. In fact, one of the Blue Hampshire bloggers endorsed Dodd - Dean Barker. He did so in the diaries, which are the less formal part of the site, to emphasize the individual, unofficial nature of his endorsement.

Mike Caulfield seems to lean toward Dodd but hasn't issued any official word. I, Laura Clawson, am impressed with the campaign Dodd has run but am an undecided voter.

Nicely done.

yankeedoodler said...

And furthermore:

Here is what I wrote in the Dodd endorsement post that was linked to in the WSJ article and easily found:

A Note on this post and Blue Hampshire: As you can see, I chose not to put this statement of support on the front page. That's because I want to make clear that my support is my own personal decision, and not an official endorsement from Blue Hampshire. Also, be aware that I'm not working for or getting paid by the Dodd campaign.

What's more, I will continue to go to candidate events, recommend (and even front page when merited) diaries in support of other candidates. And likewise, I will not flinch from criticizing Dodd or any of the others when I think it's appropriate to do so. If the staffers of other campaigns, who have been so kind and inviting to me previously, choose not to offer more access because of this, I understand completely.

I decided to go forward with this because a) it would be dishonest of me as a site admin to keep my support for Dodd to myself, and b) we are now moving into high NH primary campaign season. I think it's a darn good time to start making some choices to help out the candidates we like.

Some more details:

* The article never says that I was a part of that Edwards visit, and indeed I wasn't.

* The article never states that Mike or Laura endorsed Dodd, and indeed they haven't.

* What the article doesn't say is that the very first blogger access I was offered on Blue Hampshire was for an Edwards event.

* What the article also doesn't say
is that my first Dodd blog post was from a visit that involved no access at all.

* A larger, more fundamental point. I'm not a paid journalist. I'm a teacher who has the unpaid hobby of being a partisan political blogger, looking to get candidates elected who reflect my values. The paradigms are worlds apart.

Is it time for another blogger ethics conference yet?

-Dean Barker

Mike said...

Someone once said:

"At their worst, blogs can act as pernicious sources of biased, incomplete, unsafe, or incorrect information. In some cases they have been used as unaccountable smear devices for lobbyists and political action committees."

Oh, right. That was you.

Well, this post proves your point. There appears to be an average of one factual error per sentence, most a case of you taking what the WSJ implies and turning it from implication into fact.

I could go through all errors here -- we've front-paged more Edwards material than anything else -- because it turns out we're not reporters, we're community leaders. And as Amy would tell you, Dean had already told her of his decision to endorse before the Edwards event happened (be nice if you'd bothered to read that endorsement post before "reporting" on it).

Also, "series of snubs"? The day before Edwards bumped our interview, Laura sat on the bus one on one with Edwards for an extended interview. It says that right in the article. Was that a snub?

The list really goes on... but I have a job to go to...

In this grand game of telephone, you're the faulty switch. When we trace back where the WSJ implications are turned into freshly manufactured "facts" in this little media ecosystem, you'll be patient zero.

I can think of little more "pernicious" than that. We'll wait for your retraction.

Incidentally, your first factual error is saying subscription is required to view the article. It's not, at least for the moment.

And since a primary rule of real blogger ethics is to link to your source so others can check your facts, I will link to it here.

Mike Caulfield.

The Kenosha Kid said...

a trio of Democrat bloggers

FYI, the term is "Democratic."

Kagro X said...

Ha ha!

Help! Help! A candidate for president is having close conversations with New Hampshire voters!


Someone call a professor!


Mike said...

Does Brown not teach the difference between adjectives and nouns? Are we supposed to listen to people who don't know the difference spew about journalism?

Sinfonian said...

You have GOT to be kidding me.

Blogs don't have to be impartial! Hell, the mainstream media is almost completely right-wing now, with the corporate influence having relegated true "journalism" to the dustbin of history.

"Blogging ethics" is an oxymoron. If you don't like what a blogger says, don't read it. And, here's an idea: fact-check things yourself. That's what Media Matters does, for example, and it adds enormously to the level of discourse and knowledge by catching the MSM in their many mistakes.

Did you all escape from Daily Kos because they weren't strict enough for you? Sheesh.

staunch_hillbilly said...

You should put up a tip jar. Those pearls yo're clutching can't come cheap!

Robin said...

Those pearls yo're clutching can't come cheap!

ROFLMAO. Thanks for that laugh.

Thomas said...

But journalists don't typically make endorsements.

They don't??? I thought newspapers almost always made endorsements for office. For how many decades did Republic {sic} Party candidates make trips to woo the journalists at the Union-Leader?

markg8 said...

I can get you some cheap pearls Matthew. Real cheap.

NAR said...

This is kind of silly. An endorsement by the founders of NH would be the same as an endorsement by the editorial page of a newspaper.

It's not the same as reporters making an endorsement, as you seem to indicate.

Peter Principle said...

You really don't have a freaking clue, do you? Doesn't the name "Blue New Hampshire" suggest something about the openly partisan affiliations of the blog in question?
Since when is it "unethical" for Democratic political activists to endorse Democratic political candidates -- for whatever reasons they see fit?

As for that "suspicious" relationship you blather about -- are you seriously suggesting that campaign operatives never meet with reporters and editors, never try to butter them up with mindless flattery and never phone or email them "tidbits" about their candidate's activities. Funny, I thought that was called "doing their jobs." I know a small army of political journalists who would be startled to learn that such conduct is now considered unethical.

I mean, being offensively obtuse is one thing, but doing so while fatuously proclaiming yourself the "ethical blogger" is another. There seems to be some kind of iron law: the louder some academic navel gazer proclaims his/her concern about "blogger ethics," the bigger a twit they are.

Dad said...

Would it have been ethical to contact anyone from Blue Hampshire to verify your assertions before publishing this post?

Would it have been ethical to note that you made no attempt to contact Blue Hampshire to verify your assertions?

Joe said...

"Democrat" is a noun. "Democratic" is an adjective. The only people who misuse the English language in this peculiar way are Republican partisans and those who watch too much Fox News. By this usage you reveal your bias.

Use the English language correctly: the reason for the misuse of the grammar was that some Republican pollster found that people found the usage more negative. Some Republican pollsters even advise their people to put a subtle stress on the last syllable, so that it sounds like DemocRAT.

If you want to be taken seriously, you'll need to drop this Fox News language.

Staff said...

The blogs of today far more resemble the press at the time of the Bill of Rights, this whole "journalism standards" nonsense seems to me to only be discussed by people who don't realize that there is a reason we have different words for 'journalism' and 'press' for a reason.

Props to Barker for endorsing, life isn't a spectator sport.

Anonymous said...

Journalists don't make recommendations? No, they do WORSE THAN THAT. They slant their reporting in favor of certain candidates and against others. And then they sit back and call themselves objective.

Have you not a clue as to what happened to Al Gore at the hands of the press?

Your gaffe vis a vis "Democrat" and not "Democratic" is revealing. Do you folks have an ombudsman?

lutton said...

um, WHAT?!?

Don't the journalists that make up the editorial boards at just about every major newpaper endorse candidates? And lord knows the traditional media never lets influence or flattery taint their decision making...

I guess semi-anonymous traditional media endorsements are okay, but public blogger endorsements are a cause for concern?

Anonymous said...

Re: "Democrat" vs "Democratic".

I've ONLY ever heard Republicans make that mistake. And it's widely known to be a mistake since President Bush has been publically chastised for it.

So let's have some ethical blogging transparency, Matthew Hennessey.

What is your party affiliation? What political clubs do you belong to? What is your income (or if you are a student) your parent's income? What frat do you belong to?

Who did you vote for or favor in the last election?

Can you tell us why you wrote "Democrat" and did not write "Democratic?"

It's only fair and ethical and open for you to answer these questions. Should you decline, it will only be fair and ethical and open for us to understand that you are a dishonest, unethical, Republican stooge.

As I asked, does your project have an ombudsman?

ethan said...

Stupidity on display.


Jubilation T. Cornpone said...

Ethical blogging starts at home.

Nell said...

Democrat bloggers

That's 'Democratic' bloggers for normal speakers of English.

Xeno said...

So, this entire post was inaccurate because all of the Blue Hampshire blogger did not endorse Dodd. You obviously did not do appropriate research because you got the main assertion wrong, then had to back track. It's fair to say that your ethics and professionalism are in question.

How can you call yourself "The Ethical Blogger" [sic] when you write such patently unethical posts?

Little Bobbie Novak said...

Waterboarding is called for if it saves us from the imminent disaster of a yellowcake-infused endorsement from BlueNigeria.

Mike said...

Slightly north, Jacques Cuze asks Matthew Hennessey a number of questions about his political affiliations and practices and I'm afraid engaged in a little snark while he was at it.

I too would like to know the answers. How else can someone who is cleaner than clean and above the fray of the nattering hoi polloi be taken seriously? As many commenters have already remarked, there is prima facie evidence of bias already. Let's have some sunshine.