Monday, June 29, 2020

Time For Another Blogger Ethics Panel

"Ethics in journalism" generally has nothing to do with "ethics" as commonly understood, and is almost entirely about creating an environment where people feel comfortable dishing dirt to journalists without any fear of consequences. They never, ever burn sources, even when President Trump publicly contradicts John Barron.

In the article, Bob Woodward, the Post legend who protected the identity of his Watergate source, Deep Throat, for 30 years, was going to unmask one of his own confidential sources. He was, in particular, going to disclose that Judge Kavanaugh had been an anonymous source in his 1999 book “Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate.”

Mr. Woodward was planning to expose Mr. Kavanaugh because the judge had publicly denied — in a huffy letter in 1999 to The Post — an account about Kenneth Starr’s investigation of President Bill Clinton that he had himself, confidentially, provided to Mr. Woodward for his book. (Mr. Kavanaugh served as a lawyer on Mr. Starr’s team.)

So you let sources tell you one thing anonymously and then deny it publicly to your audience. What do you call that?


A funny thing is that about the only time I've seen a journalist burn a source was when Howie Kurtz (who worked for the Washington Post then) outed Ann Coulter for the same thing. She denied something he had once reported. She was actually correct that what he reported was wrong, but what he reported was an Ann Coulter quote from TV that had been given to him by... Ann Coulter. So he burned her. Fair enough! Never happens.

All this stuff has nothing to do with readers, and everything to do with keeping sources - actual and potential - happy. And it's justified by the idea that sources are whistleblowers, but in political journalism anonymous sources are generally:

a) the administration line (a press release) being presented under cover of anonymity, which both gives deniability AND additional credence to the information to the un-savvy reader (most people).

b) office gossip, with sources knifing each other in public and the reader has little idea of the real importance of the story (usually it's who is knifing whom and why, and not whatever the story is, though even 'who is knifing whom' is usually bullshit)

c) beat sweetener stuff, with sources providing information for glowing profiles for themselves and their bosses.