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Comments by YACCS
Sunday, January 16, 2005

We're all in this together

George Marshall, Army chief of staff, 1939-1945

As American leaders go, George Marshall's reputation has not dimmed over time. He kept the Army functioning during the war, which required a lot of fending off of Douglas MacArthur, staying in Washington when he wanted to lead Overlord, like Grant led the last year of the Civil War, and then created the Marshall Plan over Congressional opposition.

My point is that reputation matters. A good one will serve you well and a bad one will haunt you and it is hard to change.

Some of you don't understand why Atrios and I have been so vocal in defending Kos, that it's just a tempest in a teapot. A lot of you agree with us that it's more serious than that.

But for those who don't, let me explain how I see it.

Zephyr Teachout has a grudge against Kos, and I think some of the Dean IT people didn't like the way Jerome came in and did things. Why did she have one? I have no idea, but her and the guy Suellentrop spoke to, clearly had hard feelings about that situation. But instead of resolving it, they decided to spin things their way. As far as I know Teachout wouldn't know journalism ethics if it bit her in the ass.

This is the ethics code for the Society of Professional Journalists.

It's not long, but here's the first and third parts:

Seek Truth and Report It

Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Journalists should:

* Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.

* Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.

* Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.

* Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.

* Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.

* Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.

* Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it.

* Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story

* Never plagiarize.

* Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.

* Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.

* Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.

* Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.

* Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.

* Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.

* Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

* Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public's business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.

Act Independently

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.

Journalists should:

* Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.

* Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

* Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.

* Disclose unavoidable conflicts.

* Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.

* Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.

* Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

Now, there are others, but they all say the same thing and I believe in them and the guidelines they establish. But not everyone should or can live by them. But as long as a person is honest and corrects their mistakes, talk about codes, especially at the circle jerk up at Harvard, the same shit Nora Ephron pulled in 1972, forgetting to invite anyone who worked for the alternative press, you know, like Jack Newfield or Hunter Thompson, is full of shit.

Teachout, obviously has never lived under them. It took me two stories in college to figure out that free food was a perk, not a bribe. It's also why I don't participate in off the record conference calls. If it's off the record, what good is it for the blog?

If she had, and had seen what the WSJ did to her words, she would have apologized to Kos without prompting.

But it's about more than on person's bad judgment, or slyness.

We're not defending Kos because we like him or think this is a put up job. It's because when people lie about you on national TV, it can have very serious effects. Campaigns who might advetrtise on his site may think "well, we can't trust him, he can be bought"and sold for a contract. Even Glenn Reynolds has jumped in, as well as other rightside bloggers. Why? A, because this is just wrong,and B, this kind of slander hurts us all. It does me no good when someone slanders Reynolds or Sullivan. We all live in the same universe and all of us need to be regarded as credible until proven otherwise. And this attack is so wrong and so off base, remaining silent is impossible. We have to hammer this until it's resolved because it will spread like a fungus otheriwse.

Credibility matters. It matters for anyone who writes and no matter how I disagree with someone, I would never ruin that credibility based on fiction. Credibility can outlast you as it did with George Marshall.

It is the most scurrilous kind of behavior to attack someone to puff up your own comments. Obviously Teachout wanted to make sure people would care about her little performance at the circle jerk. And now they do, in a way she didn't quite predict, but which speaks more to her inability to figure things out than anything else. Did she think she could imply he was paid off when people would leap to his defense? Did she not foresee the consequences of her action? Odd for a person screaming about ethics.

But even though the media doesn't know what to make of us, or that they're wary of us, doesn't mean you can let an attack go unanswered.

The German Army doctrine for infantry tactics stresses two things: quick decision making and the counteroffensive. If you lose ground, you immediately attack. You go with what you have and go as hard as possible. Because then you throw the opposition off balance, even if you lose.

It may be all inside baseball, but if you like what blogs do, you have to stand up for them. The people here last week saw what happens when the trolls get motiviated. Now imagine if that was your name being tossed about on national TV as a corrupt little git. It's not always about money and kind words. Sometimes you have to teach some lessons.

So that's why people are jumping into this. Not because we like Kos, and we do, but because he's out front. If they can get him, they can get all of us, even Reynolds, a point he got as well.

posted by Steve @ 1:28:00 AM

1:28:00 AM

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