Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Outed by The Union

(Summary of what happened is below the updates, here)

Updates, most recent first:

Wed. June 29: I've described the interesting (to me) pattern of reactions to the outing in a comment at PressThink. Locally, still no responses (beyond the already-published email exchanges). I haven't been pushing though; just left an ignored reminder and made another unreturned phone call to circ. director.

Monday June 20: No response from city editor, no response from circ director, one polite response from the Spam Firewall at smtp.theunion.com:
I'm sorry to inform you that the message below [sent 2 days before] could not be delivered. When delivery was attempted, the following error was returned.
: connect to[]: Connection refused.
the message::
Hello Craig, thanks for your response.
People who place classified ads with you are advertisers, correct?
(if I'm mistaken about this, please let me know)
Thanks -
Anna Haynes

Wednesday June 15: No response from city editor, nothing new on their blog. On separate topic, circ. director emailed back - "Unfortunately, audit information is something we only share with our advertisers." I've replied, asking if those who place a classified ad are advertisers.

Tuesday June 14: emailed The Union's city editor this morning asking if his recollections matched editor Pat Butler's; no response as yet. Didn't get a response from Mr. Butler on how I might get the circulation report, so I've emailed the circ. director, on the off chance that it works better than phone. No posts about the outing (or any new posts) on The Union's weblog.
Others have been more vocal:
Media Bloggers Association president Robert Cox has posted some pointed questions for David Mirhadi in The Union's weblog comments, reprinted here on his weblog. Robert is a master of blistering prose, and I am very glad he's on my side of the barricades this time...
Local blogger Sadie argues that it's inappropriate to have an anonymous blog if you engage in criticism of others. (which is why I shared my last name with the folks at The Union, thus violating a different principle, "don't tell a reporter anything you don't want reported.")
Also, belated thanks to global blogfather Dave Winer.

Monday June 13: a brief (three word) response from editor Pat Butler, in the email after this one.

Sunday June 12: Chewie's account is much clearer than mine. Ed Cone and John Robinson have also weighed in.
Related, and needing your contributions - today's post.
Sorry for the disorganized post below - like I said, Chewie does a much better job.

Friday June 10: I've sent a second reminder to each, along with an offer to donate $100 (each) to Hospice if they'll answer my questions.
(also performed minor cleanup and clarified some logic below.)

Friday June 3:
Email exchanges with the reporter and with the editor regarding my outing are now up on NCDocuments.
(BTW, my intent is to always ask and get permission before publishing emails, except in cases like this. Go, read, make up your own mind as to whether it was appropriate in this instance.)

In other news, The Union's publisher has raised $200 for Hospice today - he says he was not involved in the decision to print my name. Still no word from editor Pat Butler or reporter David Mirhadi on my questions to them from two nights ago, as to who (besides Mirhadi) was involved in making the decision. Publisher says "call Pat Butler" - but the phone leaves no text trail, and people can be - and have been - snowed by misleading wording, and recollections can vary even when communication is in good faith, and at this point I loathe "he said she said". [snip]

Thursday June 2:
Should the title of this post revert back to the original "Outed, and Stonewalled, by The Union"?
Reporter David Mirhadi was the one who outed me, with full awareness that I had not given consent. [snip]
I've asked whether he had guidance in making this decision, and if so from whom, but answers have not been forthcoming.
Hospice of the Foothills is a very deserving organization, and the previous offer(below) went untouched, so I'll double it, for a slightly different question for the publisher - Jeff, $200 to Hospice if you'll tell me whether you were involved (directly or indirectly) in the decision to print my name. (answered Friday; he says he wasn't)
Thursday morning: Changed name of post to reflect correction.

Wednesday June 1 correction and updates:
In the comments below, Dixie Redfearn points out that she did email me, twice, in response to my email and voicemail. Dixie, I am very sorry - stupid move on my part. Moral of story, that others might do better (they probably will anyway) - when you set up a rule to automatically send emails to a folder, CHECK THE FOLDER.
I also got responses today, from editor and reporter. It was done deliberately.

Summary (updated Friday June 10) -
NCFocus is no longer an anonymous weblog. On Memorial Day, reporter David Mirhadi published my full name in The Union, deliberately, when I had asked him not to - he included NCFocus in a roundup of local blogs, pulling the synopsis and my first name from the blog, then plugging in my last name, which I'd provided in my email to him. I'd thought it was only ethical to provide it there; seems it was also naive.
(The third time one is kicked in the head by a mule, it is not a learning experience)

My email exchanges with reporter David Mirhadi and editor Pat Butler regarding circumstances of the decision to print my name * came to a halt when I asked Mr. Mirhadi to confirm or deny that he'd been aware he was outing an anonymous blogger, and when I asked who else had been involved in the decision.
(I'm told The Union's publisher was not involved.)

In fairness to those at The Union, I have not asked for an apology (and don't want one, in the paper itself) - what I most wanted from them was to know what happened and why.

the original post:

In their roundup of local weblogs yesterday (photo here), after I'd specifically asked reporter David Mirhadi "please don't use my last name", The Union published my full name.

The NCFocus background info they printed comes from the (old) Profiles and Policies page, where it's made clear that the weblog is anonymous.

Before they outed me, I'd made the point to them - numerous times - that this action is wrong:
  • After The Union appeared * to have outed someone else, I pointed out (here) on their blog that exposing someone's identity without consent is not appropriate behavior.

  • As I noted in The Union's weblog comments here, anonymity has value in a community like ours that historically has been rife with corruption and intimidation (by threats, vandalism, arson...). Silver lining: now I'm ideally situated to report whether it is all in the past. :-}

  • (added June 3) And in off-topic comments (here) to the editor's very second post, I quoted and linked to Lisa Williams' writings on the need to allow anonymity.)

Emails to editor Pat Butler and reporter David Mirhadi, and readership editor Dixie Redfearn (no - see update above) asking who decided to publish my name, have gone unanswered.
(did they all take the day off?)

Superseded - see Thurs update above, he answered. This evening I've emailed publisher Jeff Ackerman, offering a $100 donation to Hospice in exchange for answers to these questions:
  • Whose decision was it?
  • What was the justification?

Stay tuned.

Advice for current and future bloggers: when something like this happens to you, it is really, really good to sleep on it before posting. The wisps of smoke now wafting from my ears are nothing like yesterday's jets of fire.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

local and global

Two articles in The Union today related to discussions in their weblog - report on Mr. Spencer's apology ( after an exchange starting with this comment to this weblog post), and Lamphier will stay put, which started on the The Union's weblog with this post and subsequent commentary.

It's worth reading both blog and paper on these.

And, looking up to discover the existence of a wider world, we found Effect Measure reporting on and linking to Nature's special issue on bird flu:
Nature is doing nothing less than trying to jump start action on avian flu. That a private publication should find it necessary to take this on is a sad commentary on the dereliction of duty from local, national and international public health authorities...
(Here's Nature's fictional bird flu blog, to help you visualize what could be in our future.)

To glocalize *: we need our local public servants to take up blogging. They work for us; they should be telling us what they're up to. What is Nevada County's pandemic plan? Who is working on it? Where is it available for the public to read, and to share their collective wisdom? (Dan Gillmor says his readers know more than he does, and en masse, we do. )

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A different perspective

Me, spouting favorite journalistic platitude:
Sunlight is...the best of disinfectants... ( * )
Colleague replies:
I thought alcohol was better.

It's at Greensboro

In case you've been wondering where it's at...:
An excellent lay-of-the-land article describing the Greensboro 'blog scene' and its participants, who serve as (sometimes cautionary) illustrations of the nature of blogging and the issues it poses. Best definition of a weblog yet:
A weblog is (usually) no more than a website that (usually) features the writing of a single author who (usually) posts, with some regularity, writings that are (usually) grounded in news, personal opinion and references to other bloggers, which can (usually) be immediately accessed at the click of a mouse through hyperlinks....

was going to quote more of the piece - so much of it is so eminently quotable - but there wouldn't have been much left unquoted. So go read the whole piece, if you're curious.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Friday, May 20, 2005

go read Yubanet

Part 4 of Doug Mattson's series on the proposed reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine - Tailings to Tiles - is up.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Long's saves a life

You know that friend you have? - the one who's fit as a horse, who eats well, who never has to go to the doctor?

Take him over to Long's, and have him check his blood pressure at the free station over by the pharmacist.

191 over 110.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Halo of the week to Lex Alexander

...who today posted the text of his talk on Working in the Glass House: Newspapers in the Age of Blogs, Grassroots Journalism and Transparency.
...we've got three ways we can respond. We can get all defensive and arrogant. We can take the kind of absolutely silent approach that comes across as defensive and arrogant. Or we can acknowledge in fact what we always say whenever we're pushing for more liberal open-records laws: We're a public trust. ...
If you're at all interested in this stuff, go read it.

Monday, May 16, 2005

I seem to have been busy

.. and am currently short of sleep.

Go read Effect Measure on Monbiot on Bellamy on global warming. It's quite a story.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Additions to the blogroll

From South Carolina, journalist Daniel Conover, aka "damngood commenter" on other weblogs (on his own weblog, his most recent posts are excellent); sample comment here -
The goal of objectivity is not fairness or balance: it is reliability and credibility. Objective information actually upsets rote "fairness" when one side of an argument is based on an obvious distortion.

From Canada, journalism instructor Mark Hamilton; e.g. today's post reporting the sighting of a new and much-improved approach to newspaper corrections:
...Full transparency. Full conversation, available for all to read. We have here a new way for media to do corrections that is neither grudging nor terse, but that adds a fullness to the process of correcting 'the first draft of history.'

From a geographically indeterminate vantage point overlooking the future, The Oil Drum;

And rising from once-swampy, saurian Brunswick Basin, The Union's weblog. Here's hoping it's a transformative experience, in a good way.

Update: if others can move forward, so can we: as of now, comments on new NCFocus weblog posts are unrestricted (i.e. not registered-users-only).
Please keep your comments civil, or else just continue miming them.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Two-halo Tuesday

Halo #1 to the responsible parties at The Union, whose weblog has made its debut. With comments, no less. Displayed through a picture window, not a soda straw.

Nice work, Kady and others.

Segue: Alan Stewart's Is "debate" or "conversation" the most useful form of public discourse? (*)

Halo #2 to Ed Cone in Greensboro NC, who shows how it's done.
"It" being constructively hosting a comments section (in comments to this post)

Nice work, Ed.

And, in the "a halo might not be such a hot metaphor" department, articles(*) from the Independent[U.K] and Toronto Globe and Mail on bird flu taking a few more steps toward a pandemic.