Sunday, July 02, 2006

Backtracking - Qs on ethics of payola punditry

In discussion with a commenter on yesterday's "Dubner Oath" post, I realized that I jumped the gun by hauling out the Oath; it would have been better to ask about values instead. So, in accordance with best practices of the Better Late Than Never school of citizen journalism:

Russ and George, on the record, do you believe that payola punditry is an unsavory practice?
(And if there are circumstances under which it would be morally acceptable, what are they?)

Please answer in the comments here, if you want to answer, or remain silent if that's your preference; I'm asking not because I want to hound you but because I'd be remiss if I didn't ask.

(in brief, for readers: a payola pundit is someone who publicly marshals arguments and evidence to support a particular viewpoint without disclosing that he or she is being compensated, directly or indirectly, for doing so.)


Bruce said...

On another interesting side of the pay for play scandals is the following Doolittle time line:

I notified The Union of this and stated that I will be interested in seeing how long they can avoid it's publication.

Bruce said...

And this is the response:


Because of copyright laws, we just can't grab any story in the publishing
universe and run them in our paper. On the other hand, thanks for sending
this to us. It's very interesting and useful. Thanks.

Pat Butler

Russ Steele said...


I do not know where you are going with this line of questions, and I am not going to enter in to a debate on the purity of blogging.

Reader are the most valuable asset of my blog. Without readers, there is not much value except for some personal satisfaction that comes from writing. I hope that readers come for my opinions and gain some insight into the issues under discussion, based on the links to additional information and resources I provide. It is up to the reader to determine the value of my opinions and the information provided. Some come back for more, some come once and never return.

My opinions are based on a cored set of conservative/libertarian values developed over a life time of experience. However, they are opinions and can change over time, with more experience, more knowledge and more maturity. In other words they are constantly changing around a core set of values. I have never considered the opinions expressed on my blog for sale, they are given freely to all who take the time to visit.

However, as a consultant and freelance writer, my opinions are often purchased at the market rate. The process of researching articles is a learning process and may contribute to my understanding of an issue, and be reflected in the opinions expressed on my blog. I write a blog for fun, and I write for money to buy new toys, all with one common brain. Now we are now on the edge of your purity swamp, and I am not going there.

Have a great 4th of July!

Anna said...

Thank you Russ, I appreciate your response; its sincerity comes through.

and I never heard of a "purity swamp" before...I kind of like it.

you and Ellen have a great 4th too!


Anna said...


1) Thanks for the link (here); as Pat said, very interesting information.

2) When I saw [The Union editor] Pat's words in the comment above I thought "wow, good for Pat, for coming down here to mix with the common people as if we were human" - until I saw that you'd posted it.

3) Still good for Pat though, for responding civilly to your hackles-raising question*. If your goal is to get those at the paper to act in accordance with your standards, phrasing your communications in a gratuitiously antagonistic style - as seems to have happened in this case - is silly. (OTOH it's not silly at all if your goal is to vent, or to publicly make the paper and the criticiser muddy (it does stick to both))

4) A thought experiment:
What would be a constructive outcome from this exchange with Pat, and how could we engineer it? (I have some ideas, but will give you and other readers the floor)

aside, re "gratuitiously antagonistic style" - just want to say that one thing I particularly like about Russ Steele's style is that when we argue, he keeps it about the ideas, he doesn't make it personal.

george said...

The Union could ask TPM for permission to reprint the story--or it could just take it as a lead and set its own reporter on the trail.

Bruce said...

Right, that's going to happen. But it's the thought that counts, thanks George.

michael r. kesti said...

Bruce, you might one fine day open a retail store and you would be free to choose the goods you wish to stock. You might start a manufacturing company and you would be free choose the products you wish to build. You might publish a newspaper, too, and you would be free to select the stories you wish to publish.

Would you have these any other way?

Anna said...

Michael, let's remember the definition of insanity, and refrain from butting heads on the same points over and over again. I'm going to make it an NCFocus axiom that a newsroom has different and higher responsibilities than the corner store.
i.e. NCFocus is a discussion forum for people who recognize that.

apropos quote -
"There's something to be said for finding a group of people who share your basic principles: it lets you get past arguing about the basic principles."

I'm not willing to get mired in arguing about the basic principles.

Anna said...

Good ideas, George.

Re getting permission from TPM, it's not quite that simple since they got the timeline from Roll Call, which isn't a blog. I have an email in to them asking what's involved in getting permission to republish the story.

Bruce said...

You might ask Yubanet Anna, they had no problem publishing the site reference when I sent it to them.

Anonymous said...

No offense Bruce, but you just don't get it, do you? Yubanet merely links to other sites, kindof the way bloggers do... it's a bit different from publishing something. I respect Yubanet a ton, but the percentage of material it actually produces is nil compared to what it presents. In many ways, it is a conduit of news, allows NC readers to have exposure to a variety of sources. It's different from a newspaper. You can't just pull any story you want from another source and publish it. It's called copyright laws.

Anna said...

Anon, a) welcome and b) select a pseudonym please. Many are still available.

Bruce, sorry to pile on you, but I've checked out Yubanet and didn't see the link. Could you give the (yubanet) URL please.

BTW, no response today from the publisher of Roll Call, to my email from yesterday requesting info re republishing articles. However (related?) I did run across the Confessore expose of Flack Central Station ("How James Glassman reinvented journalism--as lobbying"); the article noted that Roll Call was also created by Glassman.

(this is a fascinating article BTW)

Anna said...

oops, I, uh, misspoke, re Glassman-RollCall connection -

In 1986 Glassman was hired as Roll Call's editor, got equity in it, sold it in 1993.

so presumably no Glassman ties to Roll Call now. Whether that makes it a truly indept paper now I do not know.
(but I seem to recall a recent article that viewed R.C. as being rather soft on coverage)

Anna said...

oh and Bruce never mind, I found the Yubanet page with excerpt and link to TPM Muckraker story.

There's no Yubanet permalink to it though, that I could find, so my request to you is unfulfillable.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anna said...

I don't know if the previous comment was meant as libel or sarcasm, but have deleted it lest it be read as the former.

Anna said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anna said...

oops, I submitted my comment to the wrong post.

Anna Haynes said...

Jeffrey Dubner oath, not Stephen Dubner. (Poor Jeffrey...)