15 thoughts on ““Don’t ask, don’t tell” doesn’t work for journalists either

    • Hmm. That’s an interesting bit in the ombud’s post where he mentions that Post opinion writers and bloggers are exempt from the paper’s social-media rules. I don’t recall seeing any such waiver for them in those guidelines… if one existed, Dave Weigel might still be blogging for the Post instead of Slate.

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  3. I used to be a journalist, and I agree with much of what you say. An analogy that I thought useful was that of a medical doctor. As a patient, it’s not reasonable to expect that the doctor will have no sex life or sexual feelings; however, you expect to have full confidence that the doctor will act professionally and treat you without bringing sexual feelings into the interaction. There are a variety of things doctors do and don’t do in order to give patients this confidence. I always felt that the test for me as a journalist was to do my work in such a way to give readers full confidence in the professionalism of my work. That did not entail giving the impression that I didn’t have views on the issues I covered, but rather giving the impression that my views didn’t interfere with my doing my job properly. I always felt that the proof was in the stories that I wrote. However, your conduct obviously can affect how your professionalism is viewed. If the doctor came into the examining room and began sharing a Playboy picture with me or discussing his/her sex life with me, I would not have confidence in his/her professionalism.

    • That’s a good standard you suggest–for example, would you show up to cover a candidate’s rally with the opposing candidate’s bumper sticker on your car? The older sort of conduct rules that I alluded to earlier focused on that sort of visible conduct instead of laying claim to everything a reporter might commit to pixels.

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  6. Rob — this obsession with always appearing neutral – so you can claim to be objective — has made it difficult to find intelligent news. Traditionally thoughtful news outlets (Washington Post, NY Times, NPR) have fallen into the trap of having almost every story have two sides — even if the other side is crazy. And I suspect that reporters feel constrained by the rules to not only limit their own engagement with issues/causes – but also to make sure that “both” sides of an issue get their say. It reminds of me judicial confirmation battles. No potential judge is supposed to have an opinion on the critical constitutional issues of the day — because if they did – they could not possible be trusted to do their job and decide a case that is before them. Except — everyone who is being considered for a judgeship has an opinion on critical constitutional issues like abortion, gun rights, the 4th amendment, and executive power. And if they don’t have an opinion – then maybe they are too dumb or lazy to be nominated. But everyone is expected to play nice and claim that they have no opinion on these issues. The farce drives me crazy.

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