Sunday, January 09, 2005

Beth's questions (ethical policies)

Beth e-mailed a list of questions this morning. She's since given permission for her questions from her e-mail to be used (thank you). In case anyone else has similar questions, I thought it would be more useful to reply in a post than a private e-mail.

Beth: Someone working for the Washington Post doesn't like Jodi Wilgoren's writing. Did you ever think it might be personal rivalry?

It could be anything. But the comments from Professional Journalist were about her writing. The fact that PJ felt Wilgoren buried her lead, distanced the horror of the human costs by utilizing a sing-song voice, and failed in not opening with a quote from paragraph four (among other things) suggested to me that these were complaints about the writing itself and not rooted in a rivalry. (Suggested to me. I could be wrong.)

In a reply to that question, Professional Journalist states that there is no rivalry only a lack of respect for bad writing.

Beth: The Washington Post person is obviously the one quoted on Judith Miller awhile back. How long has he or she been writing and who else writes? Are you pushing the reporting of anyone you know?

Yes, that is the same person which is why the comments are credited to "Professional Journalist" and not some other name. I've never cited Professional Journalist's work on The Common Ills. As to how long PJ has been writing and who else writes, their correspondence is as protected as anyone else.

There have been two comments from reporters after we've cited them, or from two people claiming to be those reporters who somehow had access to their work e-mail. Those were private e-mails. (They've long since been deleted.) We also had a reply from "Daniel Orkent" who claimed to the be the public editor of The New York Times and wanted to be quoted. Since I assume Okrent knows how to spell his own last name and since it was a hotmail account and not his NYT account, I assumed it wasn't him.

Had it been humerous, we would have quoted it and noted that it probably wasn't Okrent. It wasn't funny (my opinion) and we were focused on the tsunami so I didn't see the point in quoting someone I felt was pretending to be someone they weren't and really had nothing to add to the discussion (including humor).

Beth: Do you ever cover anyone you know?

I've met Danny Schechter. I doubt he remembers it. But I have met him. We've linked to his blog. We've never critiqued his blog (which I enjoy) but I have endorsed his movie which I believe it worth seeing. I'll add that I wouldn't have wanted to meet him if I wasn't impressed with the work he does.

There are a number of people I do know in some manner but that's usually political and not people in journalism.

I won't comment on George Stephanopoulos here (though you're welcome to). Not because we're friends or even aquaintences. A lot of us pinned hopes on him and were disenchanted. I had company this morning and they turned on This Week. If I were commenting on something that happened on the show, I'd be wondering about my objectivity since I was one of the people who pinned hopes on him (fairly or unfairly). (The pinning of hopes occurred prior to his ABC gig if that's not clear.)

[Peter Beinart of The New Republic was on. This is the sort of "commentary" you're missing from this site by not noting personal observations. "Beinart gave a superficial-to-the-point-
of-insulting discussion on the state of the left today. But before anyone blames Beinart for that, it should be noted that I've observed him in strong, concrete discussions where he made points. That results from someone prodding him and not tossing, as George Will did, superficial remarks his way." That's the level of "discourse" you're missing out on. I think you'll no doubt agree, you're not missing out anything. I have observed Beinart. I don't remember us ever speaking though we probably did. We aren't friends. I disagree with his positions and the general tone of The New Republic. If Stanley Kauffman still reviews films for the magazine, he's worth reading and other individuals may be. But I have no use for The New Republic and wish it would stop trying to present itself as "the left." It's not. It's a centerist mag. You can debate which way you think it leans -- I personally think it leans right -- but it's not a left mag. My opinion. It's also not the "leading" weekly, even if you think it is "left." The Nation outsells it and anytime someone notes that it is "the" bestselling weekly, you should be aware that it is not.)

[I subscribe to The Nation and we link to it often.]

We did a birthday greeting (belated due to posting problems) for Jane Fonda and I've met her and find her inspirational. (I'm also impressed with Tom Hayden.) I really didn't see the point in saying, "Oh, by the way . . ." That wasn't the point of the post. And as a media review and political review site, I'm not really sure that it matters. [As I read over this before I post, I think I should have acknowledged it in the reply to Sue's ultimatum. My response to her was the same as when some people pushed for us to drop the link to Interesting Times. But just because I say that doesn't mean that anyone else should believe it. I think I failed in not addressing that in my reply to Sue. To be above board, when she demanded we never quote or link to Hayden, I should have noted I had met him.]

A friend swears we've met Simon Rosenberg. I'm not sure that happened. According to my friend, I was much more harsh in person than I've been on the blog (to him). I don't remember it. The same friend also swears I was a big supporter of Paula Zahn before she went to CNN. Since I've never even seen Zahn on CNN, I don't see how I could have been a fan of Zahn. (As I remember the press over the "zipper commercial" she came from Fox "News." I didn't and don't watch Fox "News." I've seen clips of it in documentaries like Outfoxed, but I haven't watched it.) It's possible that I met Rosenberg. If so, I don't remember.

I did once flip Cheney the bird (two years ago?) as his motorcade passed. (We were the only ones on the street and happened to be walking back to my place. Some people were on their porches.) I don't know that that's pertinent to any discussion we have on Cheney.

I have tremendous respect for Betsy Wright but I don't believe we've blogged on her a great deal other than in a "red" state entry and I believe that entry shows that I was speaking of what I had observed. (I could be wrong about that.) (And I could be confusing the entry with an e-mail to this site that I responded to. Betsy Wright might not even be mentioned in the "red" state entry.)

I've been around James Carville and we gave him the bonehead of the year award (Democrat) in the Year in Review. I'll say the award was deserved and pretty much leave it at that.

[If he knows of it, my guess is his response would be to chuckle.]

We could go down a long list of politicians and political operatives (in all that term entails).

And we could also go down a list of politicans and operatives pushing "values" that I would privately question since they've given lip service to it before -- including when I've seen them in some less than "values" moments.

Thinking of one person in particular, I'm reminded of a Carly Simon lyric (I told Susan I'd try to work in a song ref today):

Well the grass is always greener
But I wish you could have seen her
Drunk and lying with the gutter in her face
-- "Take Me As I Am" words by Carly Simon; music by Carly Simon and Mike Mainieri
(This song can be found on the Carly Simon album Come Upstairs.)

If I write something on one of them, as opposed to posting your comments, I'm not going to reference something I've seen (no matter how tempting) because I really don't see that as the purpose of the blog. (And though I've never been "drunk and lying with the gutter in" my "face," I certainly would appreciate it if tales weren't told 'out of school' of me.)

When we did the entry on Sontag's death, we did note (in the notes section) a same-sex relationship she'd had. We didn't note that to reveal something embarrasing about her life (and I don't think it is embarrassing). We noted it (and I tried to make this clear when we did the entry on your responses to that -- though I may have failed) that we mentioned it because it was public record and Marcia and I were both puzzled by the fact that somewhere, someone was deciding that it wasn't to be mentioned.

If it had been something I'd observed but not public knowledge, I wouldn't have commented.

Beth: Don't you think it would be better to give out your name?

No. And if I had to, I never would have started The Common Ills.

Beth: Do you go easy on the Washington Post because of Professional Journalist?

I don't read the Washington Post unless someone sends me an article or BuzzFlash links to a story online. Last night (last night?) I was speaking of the Times' editorial board and how I didn't think I could subscribe to a paper that had an editorial board that I strongly disagreed with. The Washington Post would be one of those papers I couldn't subscribe to.

The mockery they hurled at the French (my opinion) in an editorial on the heat wave (summer of 2003?) isn't something I've forgotten. I'm sorry but elderly people dying due to the heat isn't a laughing matter to me. I don't think I've gone easy on the Washington Post, I think I've largely ignored it (here and in my own life).

If I go "hard" on the Times it's because it can be so much better than it is. Even realizing that mistakes will pop into a daily paper, it can still be much better than it is.

By the way, Denise, today they finally printed a correction to their error in last Sunday's story by Dave Itzkoff -- where he mistook Cheri Oteri for Molly Shannon. And yes, I was tempted to write about the article because there were so many problems with that story. If you'd like to address them, the offer still stands. That goes for anyone else. I'm trying to focus on the front page and the main section. If I entered the train wreck that often is the art's section, I don't think I'd ever be able to focus on anything else. But I agree the author wasn't as informed as he presented himself as being. I also agree that Oteri was the least of the mistakes in that piece.

I bring that up partly because that's a perfect example of how the Times needs to be better. They're now increasing their art's coverage. [See Business Week for this story] That's great. (Unless you're the LA Times.) But could they get someone to check the articles before they run? Opinion is not fact and when it's presented as fact in an art's feature, I don't believe (personal opinion) that you can say, "Oh it's just the art's page." Either the Times stands by every story in every section of the paper or it doesn't.

If Itzkoff's mistakes resulted from a crash course in Saturday Night Live via sources, he should have quoted them because instead the mistakes are in his name.

Beth: With all the controversy over Atrios working for Media Matters and now Armstrong Williams being on the administration's payroll, will you state for the record that you are not receiving gifts or monies elsewhere?

For the record, I have a forty hour a week job that I'm paid for. This blog is not part of it, nor is it something that I discuss at work. I am not paid to write this or anything else -- as my poor writing (even with Shirley's catching all that she does) demonstrates.

The New York Times doesn't pay me. The White House doesn't pay me. No liberal organization pays me. (Or any organization or publication or web site of any kind.) I do not get any freebies. I pay for my Times subscription and anything else I subscribe to. I do not get BuzzFlash premiums for free or at a discounted rate (another e-mailer asked me if I "pimped" for BuzzFlash in exchange for freebies).

I have noted I was one of many in my community working with the local Bill of Rights Defense Committee ( -- that was as a volunteer (something I believe all of us who participated in my community were).

I've revealed that I supported John Kerry in the primaries (starting in March, 2003). I did contribute to his campaign. That didn't stop me from quoting Ben's comment about Kerry on Friday and it didn't make me feel the need to bury it at the bottom.

I donate to numerous organziations. I do not serve on or at those organizations. (When an organization has been cited on the site by me, I think I've always noted that I support it or donate to it.)

Oh, I don't get paid by Air America (or get any free gifts). A number of you feel they're pushed on this web site. We highlighted shows as resources to make sure people were aware what was out there. (I never got around to highlighting Eco-Talk and I'll try to do that before the month is over.) If I hear something on it that makes me think, "I have to pass this on!" then I pass it on. Without payments or gifts being exchanged.

I understand that these are questions that go to ethics so I've answered them. That said, I'm bored to death. (Not by Beth, by me.) And yawning like crazy. I actually had plans for tonight (beyond one more post to the blog) but talking about myself truly bores me.

It wasn't asked, but I will note that some sites you've mentioned in comments quoted or noted in entries on this site have contacted this site. All were glad to have your support. And on that, as I've already noted in private e-mails to some members, you may want to let them know if you enjoy their site. Some of you self-describe as "the biggest fan of ____" and yet you may not have ever noted that to them.

I'll also take a moment to comment on Armstrong Williams and Atrios. (My opinions.) The issue is ethics, not them. Personalizing it to illustrate a point is one thing but turning into an attack on either misses the point. (Again, these are my opinions.) Sure I'm shedding no tears for Williams. But when there is an ethical lapse, instead of pointing the finger and nah-nahing, we should use the time to examine ourselves. [Let me be clear on that in case there's any confusion. If some blog is mocking Williams, have at it. We support mocking here. But I hope the larger issue is dealt with at some point. But again, mock, mock, mock. It's one of our most powerful tools. But aiming it at the elderly in France, as the Washington Post did, seems not just pointless, but tasteless. My opinion.]

With regard to Atrios (which I heard about after the fact), the web seemed to divide up into "Leave him alone!" and "I hate him!" and the issue itself wasn't examined. [My understanding based on comments, site entries and articles that have been sent to this site.] I really don't think the issue was Atrios. I do think it could have been a starting point to address ethics for blogging. (And anything in this post that someone wants to use for a discussion, feel free.)

What are the guidelines? I don't know. I don't think we need to regulate it. But if someone wants to write up ethical guidelines, I'll read them. If I agree with them, I'll be happy to sign on.
I took ethic courses in political science, public administration, philosophy and one other thing I'm blanking on right now because I'm putting myself to sleep. (My degree "plan" was made up by me.) (Translation, I over-elected big time.) I try to pull from those. And I'm using my own judgement which may or may not be accurate.

Atrios was an anonymous blogger. He might have felt that acknowledging he was working for Media Matters would out him. Does that make a difference? (Again, no one's paying me to blog and I'm not affilated with any site, periodical or organization as anything other than a member or a subscriber.) What are his (or anyone's) reasonable privacy expectations?

Did he "push" Media Matters on his site? After he was being paid by them? If not and he'd simply not mentioned them (but not revealed that he was working for them) would that be an issue? Did he continue to mention them the same amount of time as he did before he started working for them? Does that matter?

Does it matter that Media Matters is a free web site (you don't have to pay to view it)? It's not at though he was pushing a book or a movie. (I saw Danny's WMD movie and pushed it and will continue to do so.) (And I call him "Danny" not because we're friends, I only met him once, but because I don't want to have to look up the spelling for his last name.)

These are questions we could have explored. Turning it into "Don't say that about Atrios!" or "I hate Atrios!" (or a collective yawn) didn't allow the issue to be addressed. (I wouldn't be surprised if I've crossed some line in my previous answers. If so, feel free to run with it to get a dialogue on ethics started.)

Beth: Why won't you make a point of citing it when we're linked by someone? Do you work that out with them: "Link to us and we'll link to you!" And what about the award?

I replied via e-mail to Beth, "What award?" We're nominated for something. I'm sure it's wonderful and that someone deserving will win. [And that someone deserving will lose, the nature of awards.] And if you're a visitor of where the voting takes place, you can vote for whomever you want. But I'm not going to direct traffic to a site so we can stuff the ballot box. (I asked Beth's permission to drop "And what about the award?" from her question but she wanted it in.)

No, there's no, "Link to us and we'll link to you." The sites that have e-mailed have e-mailed after someone's comment has gone up praising their site. There was no quid pro quo (did I spell that right!) agreement.

They never have to mention us. Nor do they have to agree with us. They're perfectly welcome to what they want with their sites.

We don't mention ___ linked to us because to me that's self-referential. (This whole entry is which is why I'm bored but it's on ethics so I'm trying to stay awake. I do keep getting up from the computer to walk around. Anyone who read the last post and is eagerly waiting for this one to go up will be sadly disappointed if they're thinking it's a mammoth entry. If I didn't keep taking breaks to stop yawning it would have been done long ago.)

I'm a long time reader of the Times and I'm sure the policy they maintain (nix to being self-referential) influences me. But I also feel that a statement about being linked by ____ detracts from space that could have gone to something else. Maybe something serious, maybe a joke. (Probably just another string of typos on my part.)

It just strikes me as self-promotion. I know this our community and not about me. But I really don't think we need to be plugging ourselves. And I could go on and on but I really am putting myself to sleep. (Members reply: "You too?") (Some reply that. Others are snoring loudly.)

I had wanted to do something on Iraq. (And Rob & Kara, I've clipped the sections from the paper to blog on the issue you wanted addressed. It will be done but, as Rob can tell you, I can't promise you when.) I'm too bored and sleepy now to do that. So I'm going to toss out a link to a story I saw in the paper and one that's up on the web site now but I don't remember being in this morning's paper. (It may have been. I may just be blanking because this discussion is putting me to sleep.)

U.S. Bombs Wrong House, Killing at Least Five Iraqis By CHRISTINE HAUSER

5 Iraqis Die in Gunfight After Bomb Hits U.S. ConvoyBy RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.

Let me note too, regarding links, if you're using Firefox, whatever attempts to install from the Times site is apparently stopped by that browser. Don't install it because you think I'm "pushing" it. Look into it yourself, ask around and figure out if it will or will not work for you.
I am sorry that we didn't deal more with the Times today but I'm truly so bored that I'm about to fall asleep and I can't do that until I eat something (I have been too busy to eat yet today). Right now, my attitude is "I'm eating and going to sleep." If, while eating, I get some of the energy back that's been sapped, I'll log back on and try to do another entry. Otherwise, this is it for the tonight. Enjoy "Rudith Miller" (Frank in Orlando already registered that it's "not funny" and Ben says he thinks it's the funniest thing yet on the site). (I rate it higher than Frank in Orlando but much lower than Ben. That's just my opinion.)

Addendum to this. For the last hour, I've been responding to e-mails during breaks to try to stay awake. (Apologies to anyone who receives a reply that makes no sense.)

Why Are We In Iraq? has e-mailed and as I'm understanding it, he's wanting something passed on. (I'm sure he's very clear, I'm just bored beyond belief. Not by him, or by Beth's questions, just by my answers and the self-focus.)

I think this is what he wants passed on, if it's not, please e-mail and we'll post exactly what you wanted passed on (passed on tomorrow, when this posts, I'm shutting off this computer):

I think I covered what i could in regards to really should mention the invisible
ones which you have to pay for and which tell you
god-knows-what....but I hope you also let your readers
know that there are things they can do to block

He talks about Firefox in his e-mail. I'm not sure he's recommending it. Again, check it out before you use it, don't use it on my say so. (I'm a computer idiot.) Letters are starting to swim and I'm too tired (and too hungry) to sort it out. But I believe his point is there are more tracking devices than I indicated. If that's what he's saying, he's correct. Common sense says he's correct since I'm a computer idiot. But the UK gurus did try to inform me about that and quickly realized it was way, way over my head.

If in the editorial last night I implied that a counter on a web site (one that you could see) was all you needed to worry about, I was wrong. It's not the counter, as I understood it, that's going to tell someone your isp address for instance.

I did state, in the editorial, that we wouldn't be getting a counter. I'm sure I wasn't clear in that part. (And I'm struggling to type this correctly here so if you see a typo or words are inverted, just e-mail and it will be corrected tomorrow.) (Tomorrow evening.)

Jim has wanted us to get one. Molly was worried about them. I have no interest in knowing how many hits/visits we're getting. That would lead to someone e-mailing, "We hit ___! Aren't you going to note that in an entry!" I can understand others being curious. I might be were it not for the fact that the e-mails coming in are a strong enough indication to me that we have enough members. (If you're a new member with this post, welcome. We're glad to have you. Feel free to e-mail at I'm not insulting new members. I'm just saying we're happy with our rate of growth. Or I am. And unless someone else wants to take on answering all the e-mail . . .)

The simple counter isn't the concern. My point in stating we wouldn't be posting it was Molly could see a counter (on the site she went to) and knew (from the blogger's post) that something was tracking where people were coming from (and possibly where they were going to after). So that no one would be alarmed by the sudden appearence of a clock or worried that it was coming, I made the announcement that it wouldn't be.

Lastly, seven of you ask, "Where's Kat?" She's actually working on a review of an album by ___. I know that because she e-mailed me about it in such strong terms (positive) that I went out and bought it this morning. When it will be done, I have no idea. You can't rush genius.
(Which means you can always rush me. Feel free to. Seriously Rob, remind me about what I'm working on for you and Kara or I will forget.)

[Note: One correction caught. Hit me as I hit post that I probably used "in" in the place of "and." I found that twice I think. Note II: Caught two more mistakes. Maybe three. Also added two comments in "[]" for clarity. One is meant to note that when I see "seems" about the division over Atrios, I'm speaking from what I've seen which is probably far from comprehensive. And I don't remember what other the one was. I think it has to do with the nature of awards.]