Journalists relinquish rights frequently in the course of doing
their work responsibly, as you well know. Citizens have the right of
free speech, meaning that Joe Schmoe can stand in the courthouse square
screaming “Barack Obama loves Hitler!” all day long, and the ACLU, and
I, will defend his right to do so. But a journalist who wants to commit
that sentence to print cannot do so without adducing some proof. Having
a platform means that you have some responsibilities, and
responsibilities are the opposite of rights.
So there are still some things to sort out about all this. I’d
suggest, for starters, that any citizen-journalist who has made
political donations be forced to list them at the bottom of every post
(interestingly, Fowler also donated $250 to Fred Thompson, according to
the FEC page linked to above). I’d also say that citizen-journalists
ought to have the responsibility, when the circumstances merit it, of
seeking follow-up comment from the other side (or, in the case above,
giving Obama aides the standard chance to clarify). That’s the tough
part of journalism. Any idiot can run a tape recorder.
Any idiot can also figure out that the Internet is just as much subject tothe law as anything else, so maybe not so much with the conflating of “guy on street corner screaming” and “blogger,” ‘kay? He takes what is basically the AP Stylebook and says bloggers ought to adopt it, and … okay, but Bill Kristol first, you know? And not for nothing, but should that guy on the street corner get a little too vociferous, mean-spirited and effective, we haveslander laws on the books, too. Any idiot … forget it, the joke writes itself and that’s no fun.
I would like to suggest, just for starters, that every journalist who has ever made a political contribution be forced to list it at the end of every article. I’m sure in Tomasky’s imaginary World of Journalism Factory where every reporter and every media outlet follows The Same Rules, such things Are Not Done and no journalist would ever, ever, ever contribute to a campaign. Much less fuck, date or marry someone on a campaign. Much less get so chummy with a candidate that he or she would bend the rules for that candidate. Much less report something without properly attributing it, or seeking response from the other side, or attempting basic fairness and faith to the facts of the case.
I’ll give you all a minute to stop laughing. This isn’t, by the by, a case of “they suck, so can we” as much as it is “they suck, so stop telling us to be like them” argument. Fact is, while there are generally loosely accepted ideas of what journalism is, largely handed down by word of mouth in frighteningly cavalier fashion from editor to reporter and teacher to student, what “the rules” entail varies wildly from one media outlet to another, and it’s just as reductive and insulting to assume that all “journalists” follow them as it is to assume that all bloggers do not.