Usually, I’d stay away from something like this. But this can’t be right.
Dave Weigel is out from the Washington Post. There’s no way I’m going to recap the whole thing, and I’m not going to venture an opinion on the whole ordeal. But I have two things to say. The first is that I am baffled by people who think that never venturing an opinion or showing your colors is something to be lauded. I get that there is a difference between a reporter and a pundit. But to pretend that someone who reports must never, ever hold an opinion is, well, ludicrous. Are they supposed to be Vulcans? I would so much rather someone who was intellectually honest, acknowledged his or her own shortcomings, and then tried to give an unbiased, truthful report.
I feel the same way about financial conflicts of interest. We don’t demand that people never, ever have a conflict. We demand that they honestly report them to us along with their research. That way, we can judge for ourselves how much the conflict comes into play; moreover, it forces the author to reflect and admit that biases exist to that they can be overcome.
So I don’t get all this huffing and puffing from “real” reporters who obviously purged all their emotions in kholinar so long ago. Give me a break. I’d be less likely to trust them.
The second involves this:
Andrew Klein writes in in reference to the matter of Dave Weigel:
I want to say first that I disagree with your assessment as it relates specifically to this scenario (as a young journalist myself, I do think there’s way too much coddling going around); that being said, the following question is meant in earnest, not sarcasm: Why do you think the list serv in question is “semi-public” (your words) or “public” (your friend’s words)? The guest list is a high water mark of masturbatory insider media, I’m sure, but it is in fact private and off the record. A place to vent and chat frankly and all that shit. Just because those involved are very public journalists doesn’t make their own off the record remarks any less so.
I concede that journalists should be cautious when putting such frank thoughts to paper, electronic or otherwise. But for me that’s not the bulk of the issue. Someone purposely took Dave’s obvious off-the-record remarks and made them public. The moral equivalences are manifold, and without condoning what he said my first reaction was a big ol new media WTF. Not much is sacred anymore, but can we at least say that publishing off the record remarks, no matter how silly or ill advised, is the first issue, not the second?
The answer is simple and unfortunate: Nothing is really off-the-record. No conversation between more than two people is ever really off-the-record, and no e-mail is ever, ever off-the-record.
Huh? “Nothing is really off-the-record?” If there’s one thing I though was true of REAL journalists it was that rules were in play that were inviolable. I thought “off-the-record” meant “OFF-THE-RECORD”. I thought journalists would go so far as to go to jail to protect a source.
I guess not. I guess that “off-the-record” means “off-the-record as long as it doesn’t please me to screw you”. Unless I’m missing something.
I wonder if this real journalist tells his sources this fact when he’s getting them to tell him stuff, off-the-record.