January 15, 2005

O.K., so a prominent blogger forms a political consulting partnership with another blogger, gets an account from a major Presidential candidate, and promptly discloses it, in all its gory detail, on the pages of his website. Over the next few months, a disclaimer is attached to the side of his blog, alerting people that he is working for one of the candidates he's writing about (the other blogger announces his employment, and promptly goes on hiatus for six months to work on the campaign). His employment is discussed, not only in anecdotal fashion on his website, but also in numerous profiles of the blogger in the mainstream media. In addition, the web savvy of the candidate in question is also a featured item in those stories; his understanding of new media, and, in particular, the blogosphere, becomes the definition of his candidacy.

And now, almost two years later, someone decides that it's a scandal, an "Abu Ghraib" of web punditry. This week's report on the Killian Forgeries, CBS' reactive pose when initially confronted with the evidence, and the lack of due dilligence the network performed when it received the documents, has predictably been used as a cover to attack the tenets of "objective" journalism as practiced by CBS News, as opposed to the doctrinaire agitprop produced by FoxNews and most of the blogosphere. But if anything reveals the emptiness of the traditional media, it's this story, which was published in the news section (that is, the section of the paper not edited by Julius Striecher) of the Wall Street Journal: an attempt to provide a false ideological counterpoint to the Armstrong Williams story.

That I have to devote any time to this flaming-piece-of-crap of a story makes me feel diminished, which is a poor condition to be in on a beautiful morning in Berkeley (I'm visiting my sister and nephew). What Mr. Zuniga and Mr. Armstrong did wasn't unethical, and doesn't diminish my enjoyment of their blogs (full disclosure: neither has ever included me in their blogroll, or taken note or issue with anything I've posted here). It does seem ironic that a number of bloggers who've made the most noise about this violation of "blogger ethics" are also practicing lawyers, none of whom seemed too concerned about the ethics of our own profession when it came to intentionally or recklessly disseminating the false stories of the "Swift Boat Vets". In any event, it is not morally equivalent to accepting money from the taxpayers to shill for a government policy, and not disclosing it.

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