By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Media Nation on semi-hiatus

I am in a place called Grading Hell this week, and shall not ascend from the fiery depths until sometime Friday morning. So expect blogging to be light or non-existent. Yes, this requires me to sit out World War III for a few days. So be it. I’ve already said pretty much what I had to say, which isn’t much.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy Charley on the MTA’s comment on Blue Mass Group in which he says he doesn’t think it would be any big deal if a blogger signed a confidentiality agreement in return for taking part in the deliberations of, say, the incoming administration of Deval Patrick.

“Gary, we have conversations with people ‘off the record’ all the time,” Charley instructs his inquisitor. Me, too, Charley. But it doesn’t mean I jump into bed with them.

Caveat: If Charley is merely being satirical, my apologies in advance.

More: Yeah, what Massachusetts Liberal said.

Still more: Charley checks in, and I respond.

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First thoughts on “Greater Boston”


The world according to Bob


  1. Jim

    Mr. Kennedy has my sympathies for grading hell — I happen to be there myself.However, I don’t understand how he could take time to mention Charley on the MTA’s response to a commenter’s question concerning confidentiality agreements, yet ignore Charley’s substantive post atop those comments.The fact remains that both the NYT chart and Mr. Carroll’s piece (derived from that chart) make no effort to distinguish between the one blogger listed who made no disclosure and all of the rest who either made full disclosures or stopped blogging while receiving compensation from a politician.This conflating of those who behaved ethically with the one who did not is, at best, poor journalism, and quite possibly, defamatory.Does Mr. Kennedy ignore this “larger point” because it doesn’t bother him? If not, one must ask, why not?

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Jim: I have read the Times piece and Charley’s post, and have watched the “Greater Boston” segment again. It remains unclear to me whether the Times piece is wrong, or is being misinterpreted, or what.I’m free to disagree with Charley on what the “larger point” is, I’m sure you’ll agree. I think the larger point is this: What is the value of a political blog that’s in bed with the very people it’s writing about? I am not calling for AP-style “objectivity.” But doesn’t there have to be some distance?The reason I like The New Republic is because its politician orientation is liberal (well, sort of), not because it’s aligned with the Democratic Party. In fact, if it were a Democratic organ I’d find it much less interesting.BMG performed very well as an honest broker (with a pro-Patrick bias) among the three Democrats running for governor. I don’t think it’s going to be nearly as interesting or valuable if David, Charley and Bob decide they want their creation to become an extension of the Patrick administration.

  3. Anonymous

    Dan, what grade are you giving John Carroll for his blogger project?

  4. Jim

    Dan,Thank you for the prompt reply in grading season! And, your point about BMG acting as an honest broker in the gubanatorial primary is well taken.You ask:”What is the value of a political blog that’s in bed with the very people it’s writing about? “Let me ask, “What is the value of an op-ed columnist that is in bed with the very people it’s writing about?” That is, should a paper prohibit Condalezza Rice from writing an Op-Ed column because she is a member of the Bush Adminsitration?How about Colin Powell? While he is no longer in the Bush administration, don’t his ties to it make his objectivity suspect?Of course, papers publish them because they have information and knowledge we lack, and our presumption is that, while they filter what they say through their loyalties to their current (or former) boss, they will not knowingly mislead us. We do, however, expect them to disclose their loyalties.Bloggers who are professional political operatives have information and knowledge we lack, and our presumption is that, while they filter what they say through their loyalties to their current (or former) boss, they will not knowingly mislead us. We do, however, expect them to disclose their loyalties.Of all of the political operative-bloggers listed by Carroll and the NYT, only one — Patrick Haynes — did not disclose his ties. Yet *all* are discussed as if they had done what Haynes did.This is the larger issue. When (as happened here) our press lumps several operative-bloggers together and tar them with the sins of one, our press is mis-informing us. That is wrong, and unjust to those bloggers who either disclosed their ties or (in some cases) stopped blogging while on campaign payrolls.FInally, you state:”It remains unclear to me whether the Times piece is wrong, or is being misinterpreted, or what.”I thought Charley on the MTA answered that directly when he posted:“The chart doesn’t say which of the bloggers disclosed and which did not. It sloppily lumps responsible bloggers who are conscious of their obligation to disclose conflict of interest with those who do not. …””So Dan (or John Carroll, or K. Daniel Glover), you tell me: Which of the listed bloggers disclosed or went on hiatus, and who didn’t? Here, I’ll get you started: Here’s Jerome Armstrong’s disclosure that he was working for Mark Warner, August 20, 2005. What about Pandagon’s Jesse Taylor? Oops — he transferred ownership of his blog to Amanda Marcotte. For more, follow the links from this post. UPDATE: Aldon Hynes holds forth on his role in the Lamont campaign.””Carroll’s piece … strongly impl[ies] that none of the listed bloggers disclosed their work or went on hiatus from their blogs while doing campaign work.” So I ask, “In a piece about unethical behavior by operative-bloggers, is it important to distinguish between those who disclose a conflict and those who don’t?”If this is important, then both the pieces by the NYT and by Mr. Carroll were wrong. If it is not important, then they were fine.I will let us both get back to our grading, but thank you again for taking the time to reply.Best,Jim

  5. Charley on the MTA

    Hi Dan — no, I’m not being satirical. I’m a little mystified about your concept of “being in bed” with someone. Can you be a little more specific? If you mean that we at BMG see our fates as citizens as inextricably tied to the *substantive* success of the Patrick adminstration, then yeah, “we’re in bed.” So is everyone else who lives in Massachusetts.The Patrick transition team asked David to do some volunteer work. I don’t know that he did, but suppose David signed a confidentiality agreement pertaining to the inner workings of the Civic Engagement Working Group, so that what comes out of that Group are the recommendations, and not a lot of gossip. (It must be noted that Patrick has cast a pretty wide net for his Working Groups — people on both sides of the OpenDocument issue, for instance.) I don’t know … I really don’t see what the big deal is. Should it be David’s responsibility to report the “inside dirt”? Explain this to me. David’s not a journalist, although sometimes he does journalism. He’s a *citizen*, first and foremost, and he’s doing his damn best to act like one.And please, have no doubt that we’ll take the Patrick adminstration to task if we disagree with them. But don’t expect us to be as harsh on him as we were on Romney/Healey — we hope and expect that he won’t deserve it.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Charley — Thanks for checking in.Sorry, but to say you’re “in bed” with the Patrick administration just like the rest of us is disingenuous. Once you start taking part in activities like the civic-engagement group, you’re under the covers playing footsie. That’s your right, but even though you’re not “journalists” (as though we could even define that term anymore), I do think a certain segment of your readership will lament the fact that you’re less independent today than you were six months ago.And David should absolutely disclose whether he signed a confidentiality agreement — not just to you, but to everyone. No, he shouldn’t disclose what took place — just that he’s holding back.As for the attacks that some people have been making on John Carroll, they are an example of blogworld at its worst. He made a mistake and it was corrected. If the New York Times screwed up, that’s another matter.As for whether David was misrepresented, I think the Outraged Liberal got it exactly right:”I’m not troubled by how David Kravitz sounded, even if he believes he was cut and pasted inappropriately. He comes across as a strong believer in the value of blogging and in the ability of the blogosphere to police its own.”Personally, I didn’t think David was responding directly to the Armstrong thing. Maybe others did. Maybe still others want to pretend that’s what they think so they can continue to attack John.

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