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Why It's Worthwhile Disclosing You're a Reporter
Press ethics

Blogging grandpa Jeff Jarvis wants reporters to identify themselves when leaving comments. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter wants bloggers to identify themselves when conducting interviews, especially ex-president Bill Clinton.

In this era where "citizen" and "journalist" are paired as often as "drunk" and "uploaded the video to YouTube," who's responsible for disclosing what here?

Should we just assume everyone is, at some level, a reporter? And if they aren't doing the reporting, isn't everyone at least a source?

Not disclosing that you're a reporter, or a blogger acting the part, "makes it very difficult for the rest of us to do our jobs," argues Alter. "If you don???t have trust, you don???t get good stories. If someone comes along and uses deception to shatter that trust, she has hurt the very cause of a free flow of public information that she claims she wants to assist."

"Eh," is the collective reply from the blog types, or so we imagine it in the response of Firedoglake proprietor Jane Hamsher, who says rules like Alter's "protect this clubby group of journalists and their high-ranking political subjects, and keep access to themselves."

When someone from Jossip is talking to somebody we might use for a story, we make it a general rule to introduce ourselves as, "Indentured Laborer X from Jossip." It helps establish whether a conversation will be on the record, or, more often, off. Or, sometimes, no conversation at all, because we're the plague.

While we're more than happy to quote somebody speaking publicly who has little regard for whether there might be reporters listening in (semi-public conference calls, parties, bathroom urinal chitchat), we also understand that even for Jossip, as a non-mainstream "reporting" entity, protecting our sources is as important as it is for the New York Times.

Thus, Hamsher's point resonates even with us: Our game of inside baseball might be a little tighter than the Huffington Post's, but the "clubby group of journalists" (in our case, Jossip) and "their high-ranking political subjects" (in our case, our sources) require their own level of "access" security.

It's not a matter of other media outlets stealing our sources, or even Jossip's interest in protecting our relationships with them (though that's also important), as Hamsher's argument suggests. Rather, by identifying who we are to people we speak with, we know we can return to them in the future, for another story or for more information, without having taken a big stinking crap on the possibility.

Jun 9, 2008 · Link · 1 Response
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Comments (1)
No. 1 Jeff Jarvis says:

The beard is prematurely gray, damnit, prematurely.

Posted: Jun 11, 2008 at 6:23 am
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