Friday, April 11, 2008

Blogger "Ethics"

So, let me get this right, a blogger paid to get into an Obama fundraiser and then surreptitiously audio taped Sen. Obama's remarks and posted them on a website. Okay, look, whether you're a candidate for City Council or for President, you have to realize that potentially-maybe probably-all of your statements are public statements, and you need to mind your words. That said, political fundraisers are almost always closed to the press. When a blogger pays to get in a closed-press event and then tapes the comments-there's just a little something Enquirer-esque, as in, I need to bathe after I shake your hand, about that.

Most of the people I know who blog are also otherwise involved politically. They don't write everything they know because, if they did, they would not be trusted with confidential information in their other political involvements. I don't write about conversations I have with elected officials, party folks or candidates unless they agree. I don't write about the confidential work of various boards and committees I serve on. And, I certainly don't write about the internal, strategic plans of candidates. I sure don't sneak into fundraisers for Presidential candidates and secretly record and then publish their comments.

Like any charismatic movement, blogging emerged initially without a lot of formal written "codes" of behavior, or ethics, if you will. The community sort of policed itself. Sort of. And, part of the attraction to blogging is the freedom and immediacy of the medium. But, I suspect that as time goes on and this "blogging" phenomenon sorts itself out more formal codes of ethics will emerge. For example, when bloggers more often get sued for making inaccurate statements about people, there will be natural pressure for standards with regard to fairness and accuracy. In the meantime, we'll have to rely on good faith and good sense, though both seem at times to be in short supply.


griftdrift said...

This really chaps my ass. For every step forward some jackass takes us two steps back. I foresee more handwringing panels at the Atlanta Press Club where some of us will have to keep saying until we're blue in the face "we're not like that". ugh

Vic said...

Please start rounding up these BBC youtube bloggers first:

Vic said...

Alan Judd & Andy Miller at the AJC should have waited for Governor Perdue & DHR Commissioner BJ Walker's public relations agent's approval, to release this story:
"Georgia AP Association honors story,photo contest winners"

"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution won Class AAAA Story of the Year honors for "A Hidden Shame: Danger and Death in Georgia's Mental Hospitals" by Alan Judd and Andy Miller, which also received first place for public service reporting."

Amy Morton said...

That's exactly right, Grift. Exactly right.

Vic said...

real "Change" ain't gonna happen til somebody starts suing politicians for false and misleading statements made on the campaign trail AND until members of each party keep their own members accountable.

Chris said...

On the other hand, everything you say at an official campaign event (even if it is a fundraiser and not a rally) when you are running for President is probably fair game. Luckily for this blogger, he had audio of the event. Imagine if he had just reported on the transcript how much attacking he'd be getting from Daily Kos and others for maligning their favorite candidate.

Hopefully the Obama campaign will be double checking the names of people coming to these events in the future and maybe also checking their pockets for tape recorders.

Amy Morton said...

Pat down searches at candidate fundraisers...not exactly my idea of a perk, but I hear where you're coming from, and said in the post that candidates have to assume that all comments are public. Still, I think it's a slimey thing to do. Would you do it?

Chris said...

I wouldn't have done it in this circumstance. It's hard to never say never - what if you heard someone express something truly awful that you felt you needed to get out?

The worst thing about the whole thing (besides the quote) is that some snooty SF liberal was probably trying to impress Professor Obama by asking some question like "why do all these redneck voters vote against their interests?"

Actually, I'll wager anything they were just trying to impress the other snobby San Franciscans in attendance with what they thought was a too clever layup. The question (which they already knew the answer to) probably went something like this: "Senator, I'm sure you've read What's the Matter With Kansas..."

Ultimately, the problem with Obama's answer is that it (seems to at least) blames the voters instead of blaming the GOP tactics that exploit those voters. Obama's camp has been comparing what he said to numerous times that Bill Clinton and others have observed that Republican campaigns feed on these insecurities. He also lumped in being into guns and religion basically with being racist as interests picked up by those losing their jobs.

To me, the ironic thing about the whole deal is that hunting is a very expensive pursuit. Over the past 40 years (roughly the timeframe covered by Obama's quote) hunting has become less of a pursuit for an individual of average means and more of a luxury pursuit for the wealthy. Guns are expensive, freely available land is more scarce, people have to work more to make the same amount that they used to 9-5, etc. If anything, you're likely to be less into guns after you have a downgrade in your living situation than you were before.

When Clinton used to lament that it was shameful that Republicans tried to exploit the cultural fears of rural Americans to distract from the fact that the Republican economic message is so crappy, he wasn't saying to these voters stop paying attention to guns and start paying attention to the economy, it was more a message to fellow Democrats that if they wanted to represent these voters they needed to moderate their positions on social issues (or at least acknowledge the validity of these voters concerns). Obama's approach seems more directed at the voters themselves - you're not really into guns or religion because you like that stuff personally, it is just part of a big distraction.

That's worrying to me. If its representative of how he and his campaign approach politics and a campaign then I would argue that's troubling.

What do you think?

Amy Morton said...

I think one of the reasons this gaff has gotten so much attention is because it is so antithetical to Obama's message and to how his campaign has reflected that message. I do think that it is a gaff than can be exploited-it is being, clearly. I do think that sometimes, when we are faced with seemingly impossible problems, we cling to the things we can sort of get our hands around. For instance, we have a problem getting kids to school healthy and well-fed so that they have half a chance to learn, and so we focus on zero tollerence policies and uniforms. We worry about whether Johnny's wearing a belt because we can control that, as opposed to worrying that Johnny is 10 years old in third grade with no hope of graduating-because we feel we can't control that.

Still think the blogger was out of line, by the way...