This is an archive, please visit for current posts.
PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
Recent Entries
Like PressThink? More from the same pen:

Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

Syndicate this site:

XML Summaries

XML Full Posts

June 9, 2008

When Mayhill Fowler Met Bill Clinton at the Rope Line

"Trust me because I mask my true feelings about the matter" is not an inherently better way to journalize or gain cred. "Trust me because I show you what my true feelings on the matter are..." can also work. And if it has pro and amateur wings maybe the press can fly again.

You like your citizen journalism by the case? OffTheBus brings you another case with Mayhill Fowler in the middle of it. (See my post, From OffTheBus to Meet the Press, about her first one.)

…On the final day of an epic primary season, Mayhill Fowler is in Milbank, S.D. on the rope line as Bill Clinton and the crowd make contact. From three directions people are shouting at him to get his attention. He’s grabbing hands and accepting well wishes. People are taking pictures as they get close to Clinton and some record the commotion on their cell phones. Fowler means to hand him her business card, which explains who she is and why she might be asking questions, but somehow she fumbles it. As Clinton comes within ear shot she extends her hand and with it asks her question. “Mister President what do you think about that hatchet job somebody did on you in Vanity Fair…?”

She does not identify herself as a writer for OffTheBus. She does identify herself as someone sympathetic to the target of the Vanity Fair article. (Fowler thought it was bad journalism.) She has a digital tape recorder in her left hand but Clinton doesn’t see it. He grips and does not let go of her right hand as he’s talking. “I think we can safely say he thought I was a member of the audience,” she says later.

Clinton calls the article sleazy and Purdum a “slimy guy.” Fowler tells him it is all over cable news. Clinton is foul-mouthed and expansive. Not just Purdum or the press but Trinity Church and preachers on YouTube and the people Obama gets to slime Hillary. Fowler reminds him that Purdum is married to his fomer press secretary, Dee Dee Meyers. “That’s alright, he’s still a scum bag.” He tries to tell Fowler that he isn’t worried about the article and she shouldn’t be either.

She then writes about the encounter for OffTheBus, which later posts the audio with her account. (You should listen to it.) The story makes a splash and becomes part of the end days narrative for the Clintons….

That’s the case. We are now free to argue about it. Indeed, we must. Here is some of what’s happened in that argument so far.

  • As co-publisher and co-founder of OffTheBus, I sent a statement about the episode to the Politico.

Their media beat reporter, Michael Calderone, asked me what the obligations for OffTheBus contributors were.

This wasn’t an interview where the former president sat for questions with Mayhill Fowler. It was a shouted question at a rope line with lots of people trying to get his attention, one that Clinton answered… and answered. I’m sure most professional reporters have thrown out a question in a “scrum” situation without first identifying themselves and their employer. This was akin to that, although not exactly the same.

We have guidelines for contributors but they do not cover this situation. We may have to go back and look at them, but I’m not sure we can tell all 1,700 contributors, “you’re all reporters for the Huffington Post.” That’s not really true. Would it have been better if she said, “Mr. President, I’m Mayhill Fowler, a blogger for OffTheBus and I write about the campaign. What did you think of that Vanity Fair article…?” In the interest of full disclosure, I guess it would be. But in the press of the moment I can understand why she didn’t.

Professional reporters are going to have to decide whether they want to view citizen journalists as unfair competition, which is one option, or as extending the news net to places that pro reporters can’t, won’t or don’t go, which is another—and I think a better—way to look at it. I can tell you this: Mayhill Fowler won’t be whining about the interviews she missed because she’s not on the bus or inside the security perimeter.

There is another “press” story here. When Mayhill Fowler hears Bill Clinton fulminate, we make the audio tape available to everyone by posting it at OffTheBus. It becomes part of the public record, and journalists can use it in stories they write. Reporters can’t be everywhere all the time. OffTheBus was created to capture parts of the campaign story that they might miss. This is exactly what Mayhill Fowler did.

Actually the total number of contributors is closer to 2,500 now. We have signed up a lot with the McCain News Hunt.

  • Calderone, in his post at The Politico, said he found it “disingenuous of Fowler to knock down another reporter’s work as a ‘hatchet job,’ while at the same time not informing a story subject that she’s a reporter working on her own story (while taping that subject). Was the ‘hatchet job’ comment what she really felt about Purdum’s work or an attempt to get in Clinton’s good graces?”

Well, Michael, are you asking because you want to know? Or are you asking because you think the very question demonstrates why you don’t use loaded terms like “hatchet job” in a question? (Instead you say, “some people are calling it a hatchet job, Mr. President…” Then you’re fine.) Anyway, if you’re asking because you really want to know, she did think the article was kind of sleazy. For that matter, OffTheBus would never have run the Vanity Fair article. It doesn’t meet our standards because it supports damaging allegations with unnamed sources.

  • Alex Koppelman of Salon’s War Room blog agreed with Calderone.

“I just can’t see him saying what he did if he thought he was on the record with a reporter — indeed, he didn’t say it to any other reporter. You can argue that in the age of the Internet, the ability of so-called ‘citizen journalists’ to report these kinds of guarded moments is a good thing, and that’s an argument I tend to sympathize with, but the lines become really murky when that ‘citizen journalist’ is someone like Fowler, working with an organization like the Huffington Post. In this case, I think Fowler probably crossed those lines. That’s especially true because of the way Fowler prefaced her question, which made her sound like a supporter, not a reporter.”

Well, on the question of whether the Purdum article was unfair and kind of sleazy, she was a supporter. Koppelman says it’s better if Clinton does not know that. Uh, Alex (I was on a panel with him recently) maybe you would like to explain why…

  • …Or maybe it’s time for pro journalists, not to unlearn their prior standards, but to become more ecumenical about the whole ethics deal.

Newsroom people, hear me out. You don’t have to leave the moral universe you grew up in. Just admit the possibility of another valid one beyond yours. “Trust me because I mask my true feelings about the matter” is not an inherently better way to journalize or gain cred. “Trust me because I show you what my true feelings on the matter are…” can also work. And in certain settings—blogging, “citizen journalism,” pro am projects like OffTheBus—it is a more plausible, more workable and more believeable means of bidding for the user’s trust. (Also less expensive.)

  • Thus: Neutrality is one way of being trusted, transparency another.

When we admit the validity of both we expand the social space of the press. That is a good thing. If it has pro and amateur wings maybe the press can fly again. If the pros and lots of citizens care about things like “access” maybe that will expand the accessible zone in politics. Dave Winer said it this weekend: Blow up the Beltway. My formulation is milder: expand the press!

“When you’re in the bubble, you cover every story the same way,” my co-publisher, Arianna Hufffington, said. “At Off the Bus, because they’re not part of the professional gaggle, they can come up with their own views of what’s happening, which may be different from what the conventional wisdom is saying.” And that expands the press.

  • James Rainey, media beat reporter for the Los AngelesTimes, wrote about the episode on Friday.

He said it “cemented Fowler’s place as the unlikely face of the new-media revolution that is remaking presidential campaigns.” (Good point: reporters write about Mayhill Fowler because they need to personify larger forces with which they are trying to grapple. So the way they frame and describe her contains a “we’re coping” message within it.) Fowler said the Vanity Fair question just popped into mind; her gambit had been to request an interview with Hillary by handing her card to Bill.

“Next,” she said, “I’m going out with McCain.”

  • Andrew Malcolm of the LA Times Top of the Ticket blog posted on Rainey’s profile.

“Politicians’ staff are constantly reminding them just before an event that every word, every gesture, every wink or grimace is now being recorded by friend and foe and can, in a matter of minutes, be on the Internet for voters, enemies and these despicable bloggers to write about. Now, every person in a crowd could be a Mayhill Fowler.” He called her “the allegedly amateur one,” and said she “goes around collecting, and in her case making, news disguised as, well, a citizen. Who just happens to have a tiny tape recorder in her hand.”

He wondered, “Have the rules changed so much that there’s no such thing as ‘off the record’ anymore? Where anything you say to anyone, anywhere, any time can be used to skewer you, whether you think you’re in ‘public’ or not?” If so, then “whenever a person of interest talks, they’re going to be offering a message that is tailored to everyone, to offend no one. Which human being can reasonably talk like that all the time? So it’ll be sayonara nuance, adios personal touch, and hello talking points.”

A suggestion: instead of aimlessly asking no one in particular, “golly, are the rules changing that much?” how’s about you—David Sarno—take a moment and summarize for the lay public what The Rules were before this moment of disruption, and where you understand the pressure points to be. It might also be helpful to explain how The Rules you beg respect for in your blog post apply to The Hordes of People joining the press game today. Or is it your point that The Hordes should be turned away and downgraded as sources of news because they simply can’t follow the rules? If so, please articulate.

  • Jacques Steinberg, media beat reporter for the New York Times, came out with a Week in Review piece Sunday about the episode.

It ran under the heading “Ideas and Trends.” He described the flash point: “The woman, Mayhill Fowler, who calls herself a citizen journalist, wore no credential around her neck and did not identify herself, her intentions or her affiliation as an unpaid contributor to Off the Bus, a section of The Huffington Post.”

  • Jonathan Alter of Newsweek stood appalled.

“This makes it very difficult for the rest of us to do our jobs,” he said. “If you don’t have trust, you don’t get good stories. If someone comes along and uses deception to shatter that trust, she has hurt the very cause of a free flow of public information that she claims she wants to assist. You identify yourself when you’re interviewing somebody,” Mr. Alter added. “It’s just a form of cheating not to.”

Deception? I think this is a case of insufficient transparency in the chaotic motion of a live event. But: Since we are relying on the “err on the side of disclosure” method to generate trust, this insufficiency is important. It concerns me. As I told Jacques Steinberg and The Politico, it would have been better if she had identified herself. Mayhill Fowler agrees with that.

  • Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake was having none of what Alter served, both in the Times article and in a short blog post she wrote about it.

She said the burden is on Clinton to understand where he is speaking and to whom— before he unloads. That “journalists consider their first loyalty to be to their subjects, and not to the people they’re reporting for,” was one of their problems, she said. She added that “the rules” as they exist right now are a way to “protect this clubby group of journalists and their high-ranking political subjects.” Reporters are trying to “keep access to themselves,” so they define their means of access as the only legitimate kind.

  • The state of the art in campaigning, 2008 is to assume that people are taping your words.

The Obama campaign explicitly said that in April. “There’s an expectation now - even at private events - that everything will be recorded and posted.” Anyone who’s been on the campaign trail knows this. “The rules of the game have been redefined by technology,” Marc Cooper told the Times. (He’s the editorial director of OffTheBus and a professsor of journalism at USC.) “We’re merely the instrument of that.”

The reason we’re an instrument is that we’re trying to empower people to report on the campaign from wherever they are in politics. Passionately committed? You can still report on the campaign.

  • Does that mean there are no rules? No. It means you don’t know what they are.

That is, we don’t, until we look calmly at the situation, make some key distinctions and study cases.

  • The Poynter Institiute tries to stay right in the middle of professional opinion in journalism— not too far ahead, never behind. Significant that Kelly McBride, head of their ethics group, was of two minds.

“On the one hand, when political candidates are so polished and put together, with their images so crafted for the rest of the universe, I think it’s good for democracy that it’s harder for them to maintain that because of citizen journalism,” McBride said. “But I also worry that as citizens take on the role of journalists, the amount of trickery will escalate — the sort of baiting of people and egging them on.”

Trickery cannot be the way to trust.

  • Howard Kurtz, media beat reporter for the Washington Post, published his own profile of Fowler today.

It has a good description of OffTheBus. “The idea is to unleash ordinary folks on the presidential campaign and give them a technology-powered megaphone.” It reveals the role of project director Amanda Michel in prodding and guiding Fowler. And it includes this, showing how accidental the whole thing was.

When Clinton reached across the rope line to shake Fowler’s hand, she dropped the business card intended for his wife. Instead, still clutching her digital tape recorder, Fowler blurted out the question about the Vanity Fair piece. She did not identify herself as a blogger. “If it hadn’t been such a chaotic scene, of course I would have,” she says. “But there wasn’t a chance to.”

Kurtz decided to go back to what is now (lamely) called “Bittergate” and bring Fowler’s story forward from there.

  • David Folkenflik, media beat reporter for NPR, said Clinton had a point.

“Readers, listeners, viewers, should pay especially close attention anytime allegations about politicians are made by mainstream media organizations relying on unnamed sources. And that probably goes double for accusations about personal behavior that are often tough to prove.” He points to Jack Shafer’s column in Slate which documents “Purdum’s extravagant reliance on unnamed sources.”

  • Tracy Thompson, a journalist and featured contributor to the Committee of Concerned Journalists site, had a suggestion more practical than aimless wondering if “the rules” had changed.

Here is what she e-mailed to me:

Understandably, bloggers see the standard journalist self-identification as a way of telegraphing to public persons that they are “in the club.” And that’s true. Journalists see the failure to self-identify as sneaky, and it is. Even public people do not completely lose their privacy; we don’t follow them into the bathroom. The question is, where to draw the line? And whose responsibility is it to draw?

I say it’s the questioner’s responsibility. Has to be.

So how about this: when a candidate is working a rope line, and the situation can evolve in only seconds, the standard salutation should be simple: “On mike.” Or: “On tape.”

That tells the candidate he/she may wind up on You Tube, yet it avoids the problem of differentiating between an unknown blogger and a reporter for a mainstream publication. Candidates will always know some reporters by sight, but still: an acceptable compromise? A rule even bloggers could live with?

I like the ecumenical spirit of it. I can see how it might help. Thanks, Tracy. But I don’t get what is “private” about shaking hands with citizens in a rope line at a campaign event as you talk politics with them? Is that really like being in the bathroom? Is it an intimate moment? To me it is highly public situation. (Thompson elaborates here.)

  • Most journalists don’t seem to realize—I know Steinberg didn’t until I explained it to him—that “off the record” and “closed to the press” now have to be separated, conceptually.

Reporters are hard wired to see the two as identical, but they’re wrong. We know this because the Obama campaign, after the candidate’s “they get bitter” comments, said (on the record) that the fundraiser Fowler attended was not off the record, even though it was closed to the press. From the San Francisco Chronicle report, April 16: “Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said Tuesday that while the San Francisco event was closed to traditional media, it was not off the record.”

If Obama’s campaign can grasp that, why can’t the press?

  • Q: If, generally speaking as a candidate for public office, I say what I mean and mean what I say—to groups of 300 or groups of three—then is it a great burden on me that people are taping my words and distributing them on their own?

It could even be to my advantage. Does there have to be down time for pols? YES, there does.

  • Jeff Jarvis, in a post about how late the New York Times was to de-segregate the newsroom, critiized The Politico’s Calderone for behaving in a “clubby way” when he complained “that the great outsider, Mayhill Fowler, dared to criticize another reporter’s story.”

There followed an episode in sock puppetry from The Politico that you will want to check out. Essentially, a Politico staffer thinks there’s nothing wrong with using a fake name in the comments to defend her colleague Calderone. “If you want to disagree with what I say, great. But at least have the balls I do and say it under your own name,” writes Jarvis. John Harris, boss at the Politico, thinks it’s no big deal.

Other reactions of note:

  • Marc Cooper and Joel Bellman, ethics chair of the Society of Professional Journalists, LA chapter and also a communications aide to an LA county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, duke it out over the rules of access to public figures at Kevin Roderick’s LA Observed. Bellman to Cooper: Would it be reductionist to summarize your position as, “In 2008, for public figures there is functionally no longer any such thing as ‘off the record?’” Cooper to Bellman: No, it wouldn’t..
  • Ankush Khardori at his blog: “But it’s hard for me to shake the feeling that a lot of what’s driving the criticism of Fowler from professional journalists is some annoyance (conscious or not) that they’re being cut out of the process. No longer does someone have to come to you with their story and hope you write it up.”
  • I think this post by Portfolio’s Jeff Bercovici will do for handy illustration of the guild mentality in the press. We are told that if Huffington Post wants to have any credibility it should learn to play by the rules. We hear, “‘Citizen Journalists’ Don’t Get a Pass on Ethics” and other plain speak. He responds to my statement at the Politico. Jay Rosen thinks its just fine for citizen journalists to have no ethics whatsoever, would be his translation. That’s pathetic.
  • Now Bercovici’s colleague at Conde Nast’s Portfolio, Mr. Felix Salmon, gives an interesting reply. He says Huff Post and OffTheBus are doing exactly what they should do; it’s a different game than the traditional “access” game. And he agrees with me: Bercovici offers handy illustration of the guild mentality in the press.
  • Ah, but Bercovici posts back at us—The Ethics of Citizen Journalism, Pt. 2—saying that, yes, his paraphrase of what I said was pathetic (actually “truncated” was all he would cop to) and also making the curious point that he couldn’t have a guild mentality. He never went to J-School, and practically his whole career has been gigs on the Net! He says his real point was: if you want access, you play by the rules. Jeff, little puzzler for you: why do you think they call it Off the Bus?
  • At Buzzmachine (June 10) Jarvis is hunting club again. “And shouldn’t we be happy [now] that there is more reporting and more sunshine from more witnesses now empowered? Shouldn’t that added journalism be welcomed by journalists? Of course, it should — unless the journalists want to protect their club, which is no longer a tenable position…. Keep in mind that as more and more journalists get laid off and become bloggers, they’ll find themselves on the other side of that rope, off the bus, out of the club.”
  • Atrios chimes in: “Acceptable to journalists: quoting anonymous source describing private conversation at which journalist was not present. Unacceptable to journalists: ‘citizen journalist’ bypassing actual journalists and using her own platform to tell the world what happened at public campaign event.”
  • Audio: I discussed this case on Seatttle’s public radio station, KUOW. It’s less than 15 minutes. Listen here. Video: JD Lasica did a 10 minute video Q and A with me about both Mayhill Fowler “episodes.” I explain my view of what’s at stake.
  • Finally, the Independent in the UK ran an account by their New York correspondent, Stephen Foley, that went against the guild grain. “Without the borders of a printed page, or the constraints of the next ad break, online news and analysis can be richer, deeper, more trivial, more fun – in short, more engaging. Many of the journalists working online are also optimistic that this election is disproving one of the big fears about the new era, namely that readers – unguided by an editor – will head towards partisan silos and voices of misinformation.”

Disproven fears (like that one) disempower newsroom curmudgeons.

Posted by Jay Rosen at June 9, 2008 11:57 AM   Print


To clarify: Of course, a rope line is highly public. But within a public event, is all discourse the same? Nope. There's "My fellow Americans...", the whispered aside to an aide, an OTR moment with a known journalist, a moment's confab with a key supporter, a cellphone chat with one's spouse. In short, a whole spectrum. Candidates speak to thousands of people in a day; journalists speak to maybe 100s. Given the math, the burden goes to the questioner to alert the candidate as to where on the spectrum of discourse he/she may be at that particular moment.

Posted by: Tracy Thompson at June 9, 2008 1:19 PM | Permalink

In Mayhill Fowler's defense, I don't know how an objective person could call Purdum's piece anything but a "hatchet job".

I suggest the response to her report is a knee-jerk reaction by reporters to protect Purdum and has little to do with Fowler.

Posted by: MayBee at June 9, 2008 2:27 PM | Permalink

What was so hard about asking at the end of Clinton's mind dump, "May I quote you, Mr. Clinton?" If the answer was "No!" Fowler would still have had a recording that could substantiate a careful write-up that didn't rely on direct quotes. If the story was in Clinton's colorful language and emotional involvement and could only be told by playing the tape, then it is a waste of bandwidth that doesn't pass the "So what" test, in my opinion.

Lyndon Johnson was famous for offering public moments in private settings. Clinton seems to have had a history of the reverse. A blogger standing next to Clinton and Fowler could easily have heard and recorded their exchange and used that moment of witness in a story of her own. Would that third party engagement have changed the ethical circumstances surrounding the story?

I was at NCMR2008 this weekend and amused to see PRESS badges on the mainstreamers... the Fox news flogger with a press badge is an ironic figure in that setting.

Posted by: fp at June 9, 2008 2:33 PM | Permalink

I'm not sure why Mayhill Fowler is an "unlikely" face for new media (age, perhaps?). I wasn't aware that the traditional media had stereotyped new media yet; I'm sure they'll get around to it.

The Obama campaign didn't "understand" the distinction between closed to the press and off the record. They gave a politic answer to defuse a story and get it behind them. That's what they do. The people who were outraged were the press because they realize now that they can be scooped by new media through an unfair advantage. I think they have a legitimate beef here, particularly when they see online media as the competitor that may put them out of business.

Taken a little further, not identifying oneself as someone who may report on a conversation also puts them at a disadvantage. They love McCain because they can be identifable reporters and still get candid responses. Of course, they get clubby, too, which a citizen journalist is not likely to do.

I still question whether these kinds of remarks are really news, whether they aren't just ways to push a candidate or election one way or the other by pushing the PC buttons, whether they aren't just lazy. Is Bill Clinton's tirade against what VF said news? I don't think so.

Traditional and citizen journalists need to go back to school and relearn what real news is - and that selling your story to readers with sensationalism is not practicing journalism.

Posted by: Ferdy at June 9, 2008 2:37 PM | Permalink

Looks like you lost some of your post at the end (?).

Posted by: Ankush Khardori at June 9, 2008 3:39 PM | Permalink

Of course, they get clubby, too, which a citizen journalist is not likely to do.

I can't agree with that, Ferdy.
We saw Markos appear in Ned Lamont's television commercials, and Jane Hamsher accompanied Lamont on campaign stops.
Marcy Wheeler and Hamsher dined at the home of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame (and saw them on other occasions as well) while they were covering their story.
Do they consider themselves citizen journalists?

Posted by: MayBee at June 9, 2008 3:41 PM | Permalink

MayBee - Of course, some will, but then those folks are vying to be savvy journalists, not citizen journalists. The point, I think, of citizen journalism is to remain "off the bus" no matter what kind of reporting you do. Sites like Daily Kos and HuffPo have become extremely partisan. That doesn't do democracy any favors or reestablish a new media 4th Estate that afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.

Posted by: Ferdy at June 9, 2008 3:59 PM | Permalink

On all your houses a plague:

Michael Calderone et al spare us. Lobbing questions is a lost art ... the only thing Sam Donaldson was any good at ... and if Big Bill doesn't know who he is, what his wife is trying to do and that the best thing to do is keep his yap shut he deserves everything he gets.

let's be honest if an ordinary member of the crowd had asked the question and got that answer and it had been recorded by someone from the local NPR station do you think that reporter would have been right or wrong to use it?

As for you Dr. J:

2,500 contributors and only Mayhill Fowler (is she a person or a lawfirm) manages to ask the right questions: that kind of batting average wouldn't even get you a seven figure contract with the Yankees.

So stop bragging on the citizen j-stuff .., out of curiosity how much are "citizens" charged to send their children to NYU School of Journalism?

Posted by: Raphael Garshin at June 9, 2008 4:21 PM | Permalink

MayBee - don't know how the others see themselves, but I do know that Markos doesn't consider himself a journalist of any kind -- he's stated many times that he prefers to see himself as an activist with an agenda.

Posted by: Jason Lefkowitz at June 9, 2008 4:22 PM | Permalink

No wonder Assignment Zero was such a mess--there were "citizen journalists" who were also considered to be protected sources. Can't have it both ways. One would think that OTB might have learned from that mistake.

Mayhill inserts her opinion into the question, gets a unbridled answer and posts the results. But when she's critized, OTB closes ranks around her and accuses her critics of jealousy.

How much education did OTB give these unpaid writers? I don't begrudge her the quotes, but is she going to try these stunts again and again?

Let me know when she goes undercover in a meatpacking plant.

Posted by: Kate at June 9, 2008 7:06 PM | Permalink

Fans of the Politico are up in arms about less-than-full disclosure on the part of reporters? When reporting about the Clintons?

And then, of course, there's Mr. Alter, without whom NPR would be hardpressed to schedule a What we on the inside didn't tell you when it mattered because it might affect our preferred outcome press post-mortem.

In the interest of full disclosure, I write for Jane Hamsher, who's on the record about this, but I hadn't read her thoughts about it when I decided it was a very silly controversy.

Posted by: julia at June 9, 2008 7:42 PM | Permalink

Will someone please tell Jon Alter and his MSM pals they sound really old and certainly silly -- trying to close journalism's barn door long after the horse has departed?

Posted by: Rory O'Connor at June 9, 2008 8:14 PM | Permalink

Count me among those who believe people are responsible for their speech. Even under the traditional Rules, isn't the burden is on the speaker to preface sensitive comments with an off-the-record plea--as Samantha Power discovered? (Prudence at the least demands this course.)

But I agree that this instance of journalism (citizen or not) lacked, shall we say, relevance.

Posted by: Brad at June 9, 2008 8:18 PM | Permalink

This is by no means a full comment - just a thought. It would have been awfully nice if Fowler had been wearing a credential around her neck. And I'm a little surprised that Off the Bus citizen journalists aren't doing that. If she had been, she wouldn't have gotten into that Obama fundraiser either, would she?

I would note that when George Allen popped off to an oppo researcher for Jim Webb, Allen knew precisely whom he was dealing with. (Which made it all the more mind-blowing.)

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 9, 2008 9:38 PM | Permalink

What a bunch of WATBs the "professional journalists" are!

Mayhill Fowler gets the statement each and every one of them would give up their firstborn child for, and they come down on her?

This isn't about ethics, its about jeolousy -- a regular citizen asks a question of Bill Clinton while she has a tape recorder on, and gets an answer --- an answer that the journalistic establishment would never because Bill Clinton knows that his answer would be spun to death.

Fowler reported what happened -- no spin, no speculation, just the facts. Every single one of the so-called "professionals" should have been screaming bloody murder about Purdum's piece for its utter lack of journalistic ethics... but instead they go after Fowler?


Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 10, 2008 2:35 AM | Permalink

Dan writes: "If she had been, she wouldn't have gotten into that Obama fundraiser either, would she?"

I'm not sure, but you seem to be suggesting they didn't know she was going to write about it, and if they had would not have invited her. Not so. They knew she was a blogger and that she had written about fundraisers before.

"When she's criticized, OTB closes ranks around her and accuses her critics of jealousy."

That sentence is fiction. This post is full of every criticism I could find. It airs out the arguments. And I said it would have been better if she identified herself.

Did anyone notice in the exchange at LA Observed that the head of ethics for the Society of Professional Journalists in LA is a flack for an LA county politician? What does that tell you? As a pro journalist (ex) and a flack he thinks Mayhill is the plague.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 10, 2008 9:58 AM | Permalink

Coming back from a conference this is the first full description I've read how Mayhill got the interview.

Question...if Mayhill had been only the supporter, and there was REPORTER RIGHT NEXT TO HER recording Clinton, how would that have changed the ethics of the situation in the reporter's minds?

Before reading the description at the rope line, my original thought was Mayhill had maybe spoken to Bill Clinton privately at a fundraiser like the Obama quote. But here it was much more out in the open. Frankly, Clinton could have been overheard (and taped) by anyone.

Might one concern is that the nature of this developing system will mean that politicians will use more message dicipline, not less. It's one thing when a politician says one thing to one group (I totally support XYZ's agenda) and another to a different group (I'm against XYZ's agenda). Apparently before the age of mass media, this was very common, but with the invention of wire services and radio, most candidates had to learn they couldn't say one thing in Albany and a totally different thing in New York.

But to my mind these "lapses" are not because candidates are talking out of both sides of their mouth. Its more like "inside voice" verses "outside voice" with the assumption that inside voice is more authentic, and hence more accurate.

Posted by: NewsCat at June 10, 2008 11:31 AM | Permalink

As someone who supports citizen journalism--esp. on a hyperlocal level, where it is *very* needed--I'm a little queasy over what's going on with Mayhill Fowler. It feels too much like the "gotcha!" journalism that many folks at last year's Personal Democracy Forum thought was damaging to the democratic process (last year it was the "macaca" comment.)

So, then, is "gotcha!" journalism now o.k. if it is being done by someone who wears the mantle of "citizen journalist" working under a "new media" publication? Is being a "gotcha!" citizen journalist the only way that we can pry under the public personas of political figures to get out what we perceive as some particular "truth" about their character? And what might the trickle-down effect be on hyperlocal citizen journalists who aren't looking for the "gotcha!" moment inasmuch as trying to ferrit out the realities about neighborhood politics?

Just a thought.

Posted by: Tish Grier at June 10, 2008 12:59 PM | Permalink

So, then, is "gotcha!" journalism now o.k. if it is being done by someone who wears the mantle of "citizen journalist" working under a "new media" publication?

I would say no to that, Tish. Not ok.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 10, 2008 1:15 PM | Permalink

Gotcha journalism has ruined public discourse. I hate it in every way, shape, and form.

Posted by: Ferdy at June 10, 2008 2:02 PM | Permalink

One final thought: Mayhill Fowler is a citizen journalist, but she's not practicing citizen journalism. She's a citizen who's practicing journalism. Jay, I appreciate the fact that you are troubled by all this. I'm not sure what the answer is, either.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 10, 2008 2:08 PM | Permalink

Why final?

One of the things that puzzles me about this is was sort of gotten at by Paul, above.

First, I don't think that what OffTheBus published from this encounter was "great" journalism (a term I would use sparingly) although I think it was revealing journalism. The underlying events (the VF article) were tawdry.

What I don't get is: who's the injured party here? I understand that if you extrapolate out you can get dangers and injured parties, but from this...?

Some of the commentary--I say some--seems to suggest that "journalism" is the injured party (to me that's an intriguing concept) or that rule-abiding journalists are (also interesting, whether valid or not.)

Is Bill Clinton the injured party because he meant to be foul-mouthed and bitterly expansive in front of a small group of Americans and he wound up sounding foul-mouthed and expansive in front of large numbers of Americans?

Alex Koppelman from Salon: “I just can’t see him saying what he did if he thought he was on the record with a reporter — indeed, he didn’t say it to any other reporter."

Maybe the public record is the injured party?

You tell me...

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 10, 2008 2:34 PM | Permalink

ok, so she asked a question. A question of a prominent public figure. She made no promise, express or implied, of confidentiality. She is not an aide, advisor or consultant with any obligation of confidentiality. So she asks a question and then accurately reports it.

Just what in G-d's name is the effin' problem???

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at June 10, 2008 4:16 PM | Permalink

Jay how is Bill Clinton (and perhaps by extension Hillary Clinton) not the injuried party here?

Is Bill Clinton the injured party because he meant to be foul-mouthed and bitterly expansive in front of a small group of Americans and he wound up sounding foul-mouthed and expansive in front of large numbers of Americans?

That actually sounds about right to me. You know what's interesting about this event is that if Mayhill didn't have the tape recorder I doubt Huffington Post would have even run the remarks as quotes. One aspect of this you haven't mentioned Jay is that Mayhill, sans a tape recorder to document her experience, does not have what I would call mainstream credibly to run a quote on her say-so. I mean, Huffington Post could have run it and then Bill Clinton could have denied it.

This is hypothetical, but what if she hadn't had the tape recorder. Then what?

Posted by: NewsCat at June 10, 2008 7:17 PM | Permalink

Jay: how is Bill Clinton (and perhaps by extension Hillary Clinton) not the injured party here?

Well, one reason might be that Clinton was by no means upset that his tirade became known. Another reason might be that it had zero effect on Hillary's candidacy. A third might be that "the media is against us" was a pillar of the Clinton campaign's misbegotten strategy, and Bill's rant was an expression of that strategy.

So all these reporters--the Jonathan Alters, the Alex Koppermans, the Michael Calderones, the Jeff Bercovicis--are upset because Bill Clinton was unfairly injured?

I guess that must be it. What an empathetic bunch.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 10, 2008 9:07 PM | Permalink

So, then, is "gotcha!" journalism now o.k. if it is being done by someone who wears the mantle of "citizen journalist" working under a "new media" publication?

Does anyone really think that Bill Clinton regrets what he said? I don't.

He's been (well, been trying) to hold his tongue about the kind of shoddy reporting he went off on throughout the campaign -- the campaign was over, the fix was in, so Bill Clinton let loose.

And despite all the indignation expressed by the Villagers, I don't think that "average, hardworking Americans" were the least bit bothered by Clinton's remarks.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 10, 2008 9:32 PM | Permalink

lukasiak --

speaking as a resident of the East Village -- well the Lower East Side actually -- I saw nothing embarrassing or offensive about Clinton's remarks. He confessed he had not read the article in question and offered an uninformed, emotional rant about its content. Clearly he was not speaking on any grounds of authority and expected his remarks to be treated with an equal, flippant lack of seriousness. No harm, no foul.

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at June 10, 2008 9:47 PM | Permalink

I think the watershed of 2008 is not so much what Ms. Fowler and the other journalistic irregulars are doing as it is the unprecedented reach and speed of ANYONE with news to share, because of the tools now readily available. A widely-quoted cynical comment I first heard in college days was, "Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one." Today, freedom of the press belongs to anyone with a browser, a DSL connection and a cellphone.

(For any literal readers out there, I hasten to add that I have always maintained that freedom of the press belongs to the people -- and is thus all the more precious.)

Posted by: John_Hopkins [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2008 10:54 PM | Permalink

I have no problem with what Mayhill Fowler did. Clinton is a public figure in a public setting. He is totally fair game. Anybody can ask him anything and report his response in any way they want. I think the ethical obligation to identify herself as a reporter becomes relevant if she were talking to a private citizen and wished to make that conversation public. I don't think you can take advantage of a private citizen in that way. But President Clinton on a rope line? Come on.

Posted by: amy at June 11, 2008 9:29 AM | Permalink

Believe it or not, there are some interesting parallels between this and Curt Schilling's blog post on what he overheard Kobe Bryant say at Sunday night's game. I've got a post on it here, with comments.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 11, 2008 10:20 AM | Permalink

Dan writes today in the comments at his blog:

In Obama's case, it would appear that the fundraiser she was attending was explicitly off the record, and that if she'd been wearing a credential around her neck — as I would argue she should have been — then she wouldn't have been admitted.

San Francisco Chronicle's Joe Garofoli reports on April 16, 2008:

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said Tuesday that while the San Francisco event was closed to traditional media, it was not off the record. The campaign has not denied or challenged Fowler’s version of the event. Burton said there’s an expectation now - even at private events - that everything will be recorded and posted.

You're overriding the Obama campaign on this, then? Do you have the power to do that, Dan? Or are you just declaring Burton's statement meaningless? On what grounds?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 11, 2008 10:37 AM | Permalink

Jay: No, I missed that, and I will correct it. But I would ask you in what way, by the standards of 2008, the Huffington Post is not part of the traditional media?

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 11, 2008 10:42 AM | Permalink

Well, as I am sure you are aware, I do not speak for the Huffington Post or work for the Huffington Post. I do speak for OffTheBus, which a joint venture between the Huffington Post and NewAssignment.Net.

If you collapse OffTheBus into Huffington Post you are making life easier for yourself as a critic but misperceiving what it is.

In reply to your question, I know where you are going but I think you are being too facile.

First, I would urge you to look at this post from Felix Salmon at

I would say also that when the Huffington Post hired Tom Edsall to report on the campaign, Tom Edsall wasn't going to be doing anything fundamentally different from what others in the traditional media do.

But Mayhill Fowler is different. How? She is not paid. She is not deployed, either. We do not tell her where to go. She has no production quota. She has no investment in cultivating sources she will need later. She has no beat beyond "the campaign." She writes as an open, if somewhat ambivalent, Obama supporter. If tomorrow she decides to start following McCain, then that is her decision. She writes about she sees, about her experiences. Those are a few of the ways she is different.

Maybe she is a third category. Maybe we need new categories. See Marc Glaser on semi-pro journalism.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 11, 2008 11:01 AM | Permalink

Jay: As I've said previously, Fowler does not practice citizen journalism. Rather, she is a citizen practicing journalism. I would not go as far as Salmon, but he's on to something. I can't help but think that the Obama campaign and Bill Clinton had a right to know they were being covered by one of the largest online newspapers in the world.

It is precisely because I don't think what professional journalists do is all that special that I refuse to make the kinds of distinctions that others do.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 11, 2008 11:10 AM | Permalink

"I can't help but think that the Obama campaign and Bill Clinton had a right to know they were being covered by one of the largest online newspapers in the world."

Okay. Does Mayhill Fowler have the right to go to a fundraiser for the candidate she supports and write about her experience, what she heard with her own ears? Does she have the right to post it online at a blogging site she is affiliated with, or does she have to check in with the campaign's press operation to make sure it's okay, first? Why are you more worried about Obama's rights than hers?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 11, 2008 11:23 AM | Permalink

Jay: Wrong questions — so wrong that answering them requires me to buy into a premise that I don't accept. Here are the right questions.

1. Do political candidates have the right to set any ground rules for the journalists who cover them?

2. If they don't, should the New York Times and the Washington Post hire some young, unknown reporters to travel without credentials, get in the candidates' faces and see what they can find out?

3. If they do, under what theory of journalism ethics are the Mayhill Fowlers of the world exempt from those rules?

Perhaps all the old rules ought to be thrown out. But if they're not, then we surely can't have one set of rules for the legacy media and another for the Huffington Post.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 11, 2008 11:39 AM | Permalink

Candidates do not have the right to set the rules for citizens who report on their own experience, and thereby act (in a limited way) as journalists, no. I can't imagine that you think they do.

Candidates do not have the right to tell OffTheBus--that's "off" the bus, get it?--that it cannot run the accounts of such citizens.

If one of those citizens wants special "access," like to ride the campaign bus, go backstage, or interview Hillary Clinton, then, yes, candidates have the right to set certain ground rules in exchange for that access.

If one of those citizens sees the chance to turn pro and knows she will need the good opinion of campaign sources to satisfy editors down the road, then she might well relinquish certain rights to make sure she is well regarded enough to do the job, if she wants the job.

And why are you more concerned with Obama's rights than Mayhill's?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 11, 2008 11:58 AM | Permalink

And why are you more concerned with Obama's rights than Mayhill's?

I'm not. I couldn't care less about the "rights" of any political candidate except as they pertain to journalistic ethics.

Come on, Jay, say it. Yes, Fowler is blogging for Off the Bus. But, in that capacity, she's providing pretty traditional campaign coverage for the Huff ... the Huffing ... the Huffington Post, a huge and influential online newspaper. It doesn't matter one bit to readers whether or not she's paid.

How is the notion that she's writing about her "own experience" a distinction? The two biggest moments of her stint as a journalist (two of the bigger moments of the entire campaign, by the way) were her reported pieces, in which she quoted Obama and Clinton. When David Broder quotes Obama and Clinton, isn't he, at some level, writing about his experience, too?

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 11, 2008 12:17 PM | Permalink

Dan Kennedy: ""I can't help but think that the Obama campaign and Bill Clinton had a right to know they were being covered by one of the largest online newspapers in the world."

Dan Kennedy: "I couldn't care less about the 'rights' of any political candidate except as they pertain to journalistic ethics."

I believe the expression is WTF.

Also: Which is it, Dan? The readers' perspective or the perspective of journalistic ethics?

Huffington Post, Huffington Post, Huffington Post. OffTheBus is a pro-am section of the Huffington Post, organized differently but still a section of... Happy?

If you want to wipe out the distinction between the two, go right ahead, but you will be misinforming your readers.

Her "two biggest moments" have been determined not by her or by us, but by the media system that spreads some accounts widely and leaves others virtually undistributed. You're asking about how we should think about her as a contributor, then you are switching the question to what the larger media system makes of her contributions and using that to define her. Weak.

Why does it matter that Mayhill has a right to report on her own experience? Because she does! I'm afraid I don't get your question.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 11, 2008 12:31 PM | Permalink

Jay: Journalistic ethics stand or fall to the extent that they serve the readers. Has nothing to do with the candidates' "rights." That's not only the point I was trying to make; it's the point I did make.

Ultimately, all journalists report on their own experience. You are trying to make several distinctions that may exist for your own organizational purposes, but that don't exist for readers:

- Off the Bus's place within HuffPost

- Citizen versus professional journalist

- Personal experience versus presumably some other kind of experience

The two stories we're talking about were big news by any definition, especially Clinton's caustic remarks. I don't need Tim Russert to tell me they were important.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 11, 2008 12:43 PM | Permalink

Jeez...You are not understanding me at all. But that's not an unusual situation for me, either.

Gotta go offline for a while, so I'm going to have to leave it there. I'm sure others have stuff to add.

But before I go... I am surprised that you have never considered whether press ethics might have other uses than serving readers. Like: limiting competition among journalists, preserving caste and class, regularizing commerce between sources and reporters, making moral life more uniform within the press tribe, providing public interest cover for what is commercially convenient, and establishing press innocence.

Thanks, Dan.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 11, 2008 1:13 PM | Permalink

Jay: Honest to God, man, I think I'm doing a far better job of reading you than you are of reading me. I wrote, "Journalistic ethics stand or fall to the extent that they serve the readers." Now go back and look at how you characterized my view.

I understand you perfectly. (At least I think I do. I suppose only you know for sure.) Please don't interpret disagreement as misunderstanding.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 11, 2008 1:27 PM | Permalink

Kennedy --

"...big news by any definition, especially Clinton's caustic remarks"

I know this question is off topic from the ethics debate about ground rules for coverage, but, please explain, in what way do Clinton's offhand and flippant "caustic remarks" constitute "big news by any definition"? He himself stipulated that he was uninformed when he made his comments, not having read the article in question. So why should we treat them as having any value?

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at June 11, 2008 1:48 PM | Permalink

Former president goes on crude, uninformed rant. Emphasis on former president.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 11, 2008 1:54 PM | Permalink

Citizens come with microphones attached these days, just like they have eyes and ears and noses attached. That's an exceedingly plain and established fact now, isn't it? People come with microphones attached whether they are visible or not. Whether they are shown in advance of asking questions or not. If we personally don't have a microphone attached to our physical selves, someone close to us does have one that will serve as our own, as the crowd's, microphone. No alert person could credibly claim otherwise, especially not a public person who is speaking in a crowded public place like a rope-line at a political rally. So how can Mayhill Fowler be accused of trickery? She was just another citizen-with-a-microphone. For Clinton to say he was tricked -- or for press ethicists to worry on his behalf that he was tricked -- is to ignore the President's recklessness in saying what he did to Fowler. He was just being reckless again, and in a public place again, his familiar longstanding fetish. That's what this particular case is about, I say. It's not even close to being a warning signal about the dangers of citizen journalism. Some cases might in the future establish that as a valid concern, but not this one, which I think instead shows that citizens really do now have at least some new means to monitor power and its awful reckless abuses better than before.

Posted by: Doug McGill at June 11, 2008 5:49 PM | Permalink

Doug: I'm not saying Clinton (or Obama) was "tricked." This is too complex for such reductionist language. But I would argue that Fowler really wasn't acting as a "citizen," at least in the sense that I think you mean it. She was acting as a journalist.

Whether you like the rules or not, do you think it's acceptable for there to be one set for paid journalists working for mainstream news organizations and another set for amateurs whose work winds up in the Huffington Post?

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 11, 2008 8:49 PM | Permalink

Sleazy former President and spouse of current Presidential Candidate gets gossipy essay from "professional" journalist. Sleazy former President tells citizen with POV and tape recorder that author of gossip is slimy.

And exactly what ethical code was violated by whom?

Jeez, next thing you know Mayhill Fowler will have a day pass to the White House. How terrible would that be?

Posted by: Tim at June 11, 2008 9:08 PM | Permalink

Audio! I discussed this case on Seatttle's public radio station, KUOW. It's less than 15 minutes. Listen here.

"Whether you like the rules or not, do you think it's acceptable for there to be one set for paid journalists working for mainstream news organizations and another set for amateurs whose work winds up in the Huffington Post?"

I think your question sucks, Dan. Not you--you're great!--but your question. In so far as it doesn't suck (which I estimate is about 10 percent of the question) I believe I answered "no" to it when I said it would have been better if Mayhill Fowler identified herself.

The question sucks because there is not one set of rules. There are people employed by the campaigns and Secret Service who would keep Mayhill Fowler off the press bus if she decided she wanted to board it because Howard Wolfson would be briefing reporters on the way to the next town. She can't go there. And there isn't going to be a Dan Kennedy there saying, "Wait a minute, one set of rules here. Let her on."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 11, 2008 9:18 PM | Permalink

I see similar ethical standards in what the NYT did to McCain and Vanity Fair's ex-Timesman did to Clinton.

Fowler could have done all kinds of things to produce "journalistic innocence" as a citizen. We can ask what Citizen Fowler's journalistic intent was and what are her responsibilities.

But then let's turn the question around and ask what kind of citizens professional journalists are ...

What is the proper relationship between journalism and citizenship? What kind of citizen should a journalist be, if not a citizen in suspension, as Downie proposed?
and their civic intent when reporting a "professional" product.
Anytime you are accused of taking the view from somewhere, your faith requires you to say no, not true. You then re-assert the view from nowhere, the correspondent’s lonely burden.

Posted by: Tim at June 11, 2008 9:48 PM | Permalink

Jay: Well, I would let her on. But you're right — I wouldn't be there to say it.

I come from the perspective of someone who was a professional journalist for nearly 30 years (still am, actually), but who generally operated as an outsider. I worked for an alt-weekly for more than half my career. My experience might shed some light on your point about "not one set of rules."

In 2000, I spent a few days following the press horde covering McCain's and Bush's campaigns in South Carolina. What fascinated me was that, unless you were one of the Chosen, it was actually easier to cover Bush than McCain — McCain had his favorites who managed to get face time with him on the Straight Talk Express, while the rest of us plebes were stuck on the last bus in the caravan.

My traveling companion for much of the time I was with McCain was a woman who worked for the Christian Broadcasting Network — Robertson's operation. Robertson was working hard for Bush, so she wasn't getting much love in response to her requests for a few minutes on the S.T.E. I, a reporter for the Boston Phoenix, was told early on that I wasn't going to get that kind of access.

But I did have one brief opportunity to wedge myself between McCain and the bus door one morning and ask him about his involvement with a lobbyist over a Pittsburgh television station. I only had a minute — maybe less. But, gee, you know, I somehow found the time to say "Senator McCain, I'm Dan Kennedy from the Boston Phoenix" before I asked him my question.

In Bush's case, I couldn't even get on the bus — I got an itinerary (from Bush's website), a map and a rental car, and hoped for the best. (I say Bush was more accessible because he actually did news conferences, whereas McCain pretty much restricted his comments to the boys and girls on the bus.) But here, too, I got to ask him a question. Again, it was not difficult to identify myself.

Never mind that I was being subjected to a very different set of rules compared to Alison Mitchell, Dan Balz, et al.

How hard would it have been for Mayhill Fowler to offer a quick, "Mr. President, Mayhill Fowler from Off the Bus"? Given Clinton's mood, it probably wouldn't have changed what he said, either. He probably would have blundered ahead even if he'd never heard of Off the Bus.

I think the Obama situation is much, much more complicated, and was explained well by Michael Tomasky here. (Disclosure: Tomasky is my editor's editor at the Guardian.) I don't imagine you're a big fan of the piece, as you come in for some criticism. Nevertheless, I think we still haven't dealt with the implications of Fowler's attending an event closed to "traditional media," then turning around and doing a very traditional-media thing: Writing a news story that appeared in what, if I'm not mistaken, is the largest online-only newspaper in the world.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 11, 2008 10:11 PM | Permalink

Okay, thanks. That makes it clearer. I have heard other stories like those. Class and caste are very much in the press bus mix.

But look at this part:

Nevertheless, I think we still haven't dealt with the implications of Fowler's attending an event closed to "traditional media," then turning around and doing a very traditional-media thing: Writing a news story that appeared in what, if I'm not mistaken, is the largest online-only newspaper in the world.

I agree with the first part; we have not dealt with the implications of this yet. One of the reasons for that is... it's hard to get people to look at the event for even a second or two without their categories getting jealous.

Take your statement "turning around and doing a very traditional thing." I think what are referencing there is not what Mayhill wrote or what she "did" but what the media system made of it. You're disapapearing her.

Except for the headline, which Marc Cooper wrote, there is nothing--virtually nothing--about her account that resembles the traditional thing a journalist would do with the same material. You're talking about how it wound up--a campaign blow-up--not what Mayhill Fowler did.

De-categorize and read the original account again. It doesn't sound like a traditional news story. It doesn't read like a traditional news story. It isn't contextualized like a news story is. It does not disclose what a news story would disclose. It does not keep hidden what a news story would keep hidden.

Furthermore, a traditional news reporter would have raced to a laptop, called the press person on duty for a statement from the Obama camp, and then gotten the word out about the new and potentially explosive language he heard from Obama. Mayhill knew it was different from what he had said before. She deliberated about whether to publish anything for four days.

Is that "turning around and doing a very traditional-media thing," as you put it? (Read Kurtz's article again to see how different.)

I think you have to wipe out so much of what she did to reach the part that is "just like" what a pro journalist would do that you aren't actually talking about what Mayhill did anymore, but what the media system did with her account.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 11, 2008 10:41 PM | Permalink

Please Pardon me.

I made it but half way through this post before this niggling notion crept well beyond rope-lines and journalism. When there's nowhere to hide, hide in the open. Mr. Clinton is nothing if not open. He gave Mrs. Fowler the same answer he'd have given anyone.... the same answer. If it is your want, it is possible he edits himself for his audience, though the evidence seems... seems... well, scant.

Thou shalt not taylor thy message to ANY media.

Posted by: Larry Safley at June 12, 2008 12:24 AM | Permalink


I'm queasy about the distinction you draw between the citizen and journalist roles. I can't see that they are ever mutually exclusive, and even less so that the rights of journalists should trump those of citizens, except in rare cases. The whole issue of credentialing needs a major rethink, but in the meantime, if Big Journalism honchos, who've so grievously abused their access privileges in recent years, start to feel the sting of citizens yapping at their heels, I say that's GREAT! And, major props to OffTheBus and Mayhill Fowler for outstanding achievements in public service.

As for your question about standards, I agree it's an important one. But again, it applies to rare cases I think, and I just don't see how Mayhill Fowler Case #2 remotely is one. A rope line at a political rally is a public place, right? If there is any place where a President and a journalist should meet as citizens and not in their official roles, wouldn't a political rally rope line eminently qualify? And thus the need for all access and "on the record/off the record negotiations" totally obviated? That's why I disagree it would have been better for Mayhill to identify herself as a journalist. I just don't see it. To the contrary, I'm terrifically glad and grateful she did not, because as a result, her report has the unmistakable taste of honest truth.

Posted by: Doug McGill at June 12, 2008 12:48 PM | Permalink

Doug: The rope line is actually a pretty easy call. It is a place where a member of the public might reasonably expect to be, and so she was free to write about anything she saw or heard. Heck, I've done that myself, and not always while wearing credentials around my neck.

But she asked a question as a reporter, and thus should have identified herself. As I keep saying, she wasn't writing this up for her little personal blog; she was reporting for a large and important online newspaper.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 12, 2008 4:38 PM | Permalink

It really is amazing that there is more professional alarm for what Mayhill did (insufficient transparency) than what Vanity Fair did (support damaging charges with unnnamed sources) and what Politico did (sock puppetry blessed by editor as nothing more than fun and games.)

Okay, not amazing: revealing.

Thanks for your comments, Doug.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 13, 2008 1:22 AM | Permalink

I think the transparency issue is really at the core of the problem here. And while Jay is willing to concede that Mayhill Fowler should have identified herself, he doesn't seem to consider that her editor (an old-media professional) should have refused to publish the information.

In an arena where the rules are changing it seems more important for the new kid on the block to show the he's got some type of integrity, some set of rules, even if they're different from the old set. It matters to readers, it matters to subjects, and it matters to aspiring Citizen Jounalists.

I don't think we're just talking about what's fair to Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. What really matters is if Mayhill Fowler is a citizen journalist and that means no rules - no disclosure of financial ties, no self-identification to subjects, and maybe others I don't know about as a non-professional - or if being a citizen journalist just means a different set of rules. I know Jay, Fowler, and Marc Cooper aren't going to have all the rules from the get go, but I'd like to have the sense that they understand that we're going to need some.

Posted by: Mavis Beacon at June 13, 2008 10:53 AM | Permalink

Jay: Not sure if your last post is aimed at me personally, but hey, I'm interested in what I'm interested in. I make no apologies for being fascinated by the Mayhill Fowler story.

As for Purdum, the problem isn't all the anonymous sources, unless you think we must kill important stories if sources won't on the record. The problem is what they say - unsubstantiated rumors about what they fear might be going on. That's why the story shouldn't have been published.

Very similar to the NYT story on McCain, where, again, people wrongly focused on the fact that the sources were anonymous when they should have been pointing out that those anonymous sources weren't doing anything other than passing along 10-year-old rumors.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 13, 2008 1:29 PM | Permalink

I would consider any journalist or editor who refused to publish Fowler's information to be at once cowardly and stupid.

Cowardly because he quashed a perfectly accurate and above board story.

Stupid because he thinks by quashing the story he can quash the story.

The story will get out. If Fowler had any decency, she'd tell her editor to pound sand and slip it to Drudge.

Fowler did precisely the right thing, and so did OTB by publishing.

I know it kills most journos to see one of their sacred cows portrayed in a negative light. And it's revealing to see how many of them would throw the public interest under the bus, as it were, in the name of "proving integrity" to preferred sources.

Quashing that story won't "demonstrate integrity" to anyone, Mavis. What, are you going to call the press office and say "well, we had this really juicy quote of Clinton making an ass of himself but we won't run it because we want to demonstrate our integrity."

No. The only thing you'd demonstrate is spinelessness.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at June 13, 2008 5:02 PM | Permalink

Memo to Mavis:

I'll write what I want, and my exercise of first amendment rights is not subject to any disclosure of financial ties, nor your approval of any of my other ties.

You can weight whatever credibility you like, or don't like. But an anonymous editor who publishes accurate stories is going to have a lot more credibility in the long run than a transparent editor who quashes accurate stories.

There are externalities that play into a legitimate decision not to publish accurate information: National security concern, harm to innocent parties, questionable verification, questionable motives of sources in the absence of independent verification, and prohibitions against libel and slander, the expectation of a fuller and more well-reported story in the future by holding off now.

None of those are at work here.

The only thing at work is an outdated and misguided code of a professional corps that has already sorely abused whatever public trust they ever thought they had..and a protectionist racket to cover for favorite Democrat personalities.

No such concern was exhibited when microphones intruded on a private conversation between Bush and Cheney in which Bush called Adam Clymer a "major league asshole." And no such concern was warranted. The outlet that had the audio published it, and they were right to.

The only difference: One was the hated Bush, the other was Clinton. Oh, and unlike Clinton, Bush had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at June 13, 2008 5:12 PM | Permalink

Mavis Beacon: Who said "no rules?" Where are you getting that from? Did I say there are "no rules?" Did I quote approvingly from anyone who said that now there are "no rules?"

No, I didn't. But here is what I did say,

* Does that mean there are no rules? No. It means you don’t know what they are.

That is, we don’t, until we look calmly at the situation, make some key distinctions and study cases.


OffTheBus would never have run the Vanity Fair article. It doesn’t meet our standards because it supports damaging allegations with unnamed sources.

Mayhill Fowler has disclosed whom she voted for in the primary, whom she supports in the general and whom she donated money to. Has Todd Purdum? Has Dan Kennedy? (We can ask him but I believe the answer is no, and as I recall he thinks journalists should not do that.)

So is she taking a "no rules" approach to disclosure?

Here are the current guidelines for OffTheBus contributors. Do they evince a "no rules" attitude?

What else should I do to persuade Mavis Beacon that "no rules" is not our attitude?

Dan: My "it really is amazing" comments were not aimed specifically at you.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 13, 2008 6:12 PM | Permalink

You make some good points -- then unfortunately consistently discredit the points you are making by insisting upon injecting bizarre right-wing talking points into your comments.

Your example of the Clymer incident is telling... and reveals that the hew and cry over Fowler has nothing to do with journalistic ethics, and everything to do with who owns the microphone.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 13, 2008 7:12 PM | Permalink

??? What on earth are you talking about?

It's not conservatives who were attacking Fowler, nor the network (whoever it was) for airing the Clymer comment.

It's liberals who are excoriating Fowler and OTB for going public with that interview - demonstrating the liberal propensity for eating their own young.

If there was some similar soul-searching, as it were-after the Clymer incident, then go ahead and point it out to me. Or accept that I was right.

Because if I'm right, it's not a "bizarre right-wing talking point." It's a fact. And I know you guys hate those pesky things around here, but that's more your problem than mine. on earth can it be a "right-wing talking point" if I'm the only one who made it?

It can't.

Dismissing one's opponent's arguments as "rhetoric" or "talking points," without bothering to address the substance is the oldest, cheapest, and stupidest rhetorical trick in the book.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at June 14, 2008 11:01 AM | Permalink

Opinion is running about 75 percent against me, Mayhill and OffTheBus in the comments at the Huffington Post version. Lots calling it sleazy, tabloid, unethical, "and on a day we lost Tim Russert...." And a significant number are enraged at the length of my post.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 14, 2008 11:31 AM | Permalink

Steenwyk seems to miss my main point (or reject it?) which is simply that rules do matter. Getting up in arms about first amendment rights or your unassailable credibility isn't very convincing.

As to Jay's response, well I think he's only half right. There clearly exists a small set of rules and I understand that it's not fair to expect Off the Bus to have a full ethical code given that the cj paradigm basically started last tuesday. But Jay says at the top of the post that Fowler made a mistake by not identifying herself. Did she break a rule? Something softer, like a guideline? I think it's important in a situation where you a working to establish credibility under a new set of rules (and guidelines) that when some one violates those precepts we don't just say, "whoops." I don't think it's good for credibility and I don't think it sends a good message to aspiring citizen journalists. I'm not saying Off the Bus should make a Jason Blair of her, but publishing the article, standing behind her with one little caveat, and saying we're still figuring things out isn't the most confidence-inspiring response.

Posted by: Mavis Beacon at June 14, 2008 12:02 PM | Permalink

"There are no rules" and "whoops" are unfair summaries of what I have said.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 14, 2008 12:33 PM | Permalink


What you're not getting is that neither I, nor I presume Fowler, nor a lot of other people believe you have any standing or moral authority whatsoever to prescribe or articulate "rules" for the rest of us.

Jeez, you're like a dinosaur looking at the broken shell of an egg and little mammalian footprints running off into the bushes, saying "Hey...they can't do that!

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at June 14, 2008 4:23 PM | Permalink

I think I finally figured out what Dan Kennedy means by stressing again and again that Huffington Post is big media. He means that OffTheBus, by combining with the Huffington Post, has succeeded in lifting the work of an untrained, unpaid amateur, an aspiring writer turned campaign correspondent, to the same level of visibility as the rest of the media. Therefore the same Rules should apply.

It's less important when the amateur is a trickle, and the mainstream a mighty river.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 15, 2008 12:40 AM | Permalink


McDermott leaked a tape of a 1996 cell phone call involving former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to The New York Times and other news organizations.

The call included discussion by Gingrich, R-Ga., and other House GOP leaders about a House ethics committee investigation of Gingrich. Boehner, R-Ohio, was a Gingrich lieutenant at the time and is now House majority leader.

A lawyer for McDermott had argued that his actions were allowed under the First Amendment, and said a ruling against him would have "a huge chilling effect" on reporters and newsmakers alike.

Lawyers for 18 news organizations — including ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post — filed a brief backing McDermott.

Posted by: Tim at June 15, 2008 7:39 AM | Permalink

Revealing 2

Ms. Matalin said on her national radio talk show, carried on CBS, that for The Times to publish material from a conversation that was illegally intercepted was ''unethical if not illegal.'' She also said The Times ''was complicit in an illegal act.''

George Freeman, an assistant general counsel for The Times, disagreed. ''It has been a longstanding journalistic tradition, as well as Supreme Court law, that the press may publish truthful and newsworthy information it lawfully obtains,'' Mr. Freeman said. ''Any statutes that would prohibit or punish the publication of material the press receives from a Congressman about the Speaker cannot possibly be constitutional.''
Court Says Congressman Must Pay Damages
Judge David B. Sentelle, in nominal dissent but writing for five judges on that point, said that upholding a law making the dissemination of information unlawful because somewhere along the line someone had committed a crime in obtaining it “would be fraught with danger.” In the Boehner case, he said, it would have prohibited not only Mr. McDermott from telling newspapers what he had learned from the Martins but also the newspapers from publishing that information and newspaper readers from talking about it.

News organizations including The New York Times had filed briefs supporting Mr. McDermott, and their lawyers greeted the decision with relief and enthusiasm. “It’s a huge win in terms of the free speech and free press interests,” said Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., a lawyer for the news organizations.
The "rules" allow for an illegally obtained tape recorded conversation to be published by the NYT giving a Congressman [McDermott] anonymity?

Posted by: Tim at June 15, 2008 8:28 AM | Permalink


Don't you understand? Wiretapping Republicans is ok. But Clinton is a democrat, and therefore a sacred cow.

Seriously, there is no way newspapers, magazines, news networks, wire services, and now bloggers, are going to be exempt from federal or state wire-tapping laws.

I remember the McDermott case, but I did not realize that so many news organizations filed actually filed briefs in support of his crime.

I see now that the New York Times, the AP, CNN, NBC, CBS, and a number of other networks are stupid in more ways than I imagined.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at June 15, 2008 10:15 AM | Permalink

re: Rules

Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings

Posted by: Tim at June 15, 2008 11:36 AM | Permalink

He means that OffTheBus, by combining with the Huffington Post, has succeeded in lifting the work of an untrained, unpaid amateur, an aspiring writer turned campaign correspondent, to the same level of visibility as the rest of the media.

Jay, what kind of play did the Fowler/Clinton piece get at HuffPo?

(I stopped reading Huffpo a couple of weeks after it started, when I realized that celebrities and their spouses really had very little of importance to say -- and that real bloggers said it much better.)

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 15, 2008 11:13 PM | Permalink

Actually, that was Arianna's first idea but not what the site became. The real workhorses of the site are not the celebrities--though there are some of those--but relative unknowns like this guy and people with expertise who didn't have a place to write.

Walter Cronkite and Norman Mailer ended up writing a piece or two.

The Clinton story was front page news on the Huffington Post with some pretty aggressive promotion, as was the Obama fundraiser story, after they realized how it was speading.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 16, 2008 9:26 AM | Permalink

As it happens, Jason, the mainstream media had a big hand in excoriating both Clinton's during the Clinton presidency and Mrs. Clinton's presidential run.

Posted by: Ferdy at June 16, 2008 4:31 PM | Permalink

I discuss here at some length the your idea that neutrality is just one way among others--transparency being another candidate--to win trust.

Neutrality just isn’t human. It’s hard to have a conversation with someone who’s wearing a mask.

Posted by: Josh at June 16, 2008 7:06 PM | Permalink

Jay: Thought I'd check in. I had no idea the conversation was continuing. Just a couple of points.

1. You're right. I do not give money to political candidates. I vote. But I believe journalists, even opinion journalists, are better off not disclosing whom they vote for (even when it's perfectly obvious) not just because that's "the rules," but for a very specific raeson: it changes the way you think about a candidate. It's now "my guy" or "my gal," and anything I write or say will be seen in that light, and it affects how I express myself -- for the worse, I would argue. There's also an implication that I feel more strongly about a candidate than I actually do. When I say "I support no one," that's the honest truth.

2. You write, "I think I finally figured out what Dan Kennedy means by stressing again and again that Huffington Post is big media. He means that OffTheBus, by combining with the Huffington Post, has succeeded in lifting the work of an untrained, unpaid amateur, an aspiring writer turned campaign correspondent, to the same level of visibility as the rest of the media. Therefore the same Rules should apply."

I think you know perfectly well what I mean -- it's just that you finally figured out a way to restate it in a manner that's pleasing to you. If Mayhill Fowler were writing only for her personal blog, or were a diarist for Daily Kos, then, yes, of course it would be different. But people who are working for news organizations, paid or unpaid, professional or amateur, should all be following the same ethical guidelines, or none.

I refer you to my previous example of having worked as a reporter for the Boston Phoenix. OTB and HuffPost are far more influential than the Phoenix. But that didn't stop me from identifying myself as a reporter when I asked people questions.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 17, 2008 4:57 PM | Permalink

What you are really saying, Dan--and this is why I reacted sharply--is that OffTheBus does not exist because on the delivery end, "it's all Huffington Post, and Huffington Post s big media" So you are erasing us, and I think you are wrong to do so.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 17, 2008 11:56 PM | Permalink

me too hate gotcha journalism..its not ethical in my opinion..

Posted by: John Hopkins [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 18, 2008 4:02 AM | Permalink

Jay: "What you are really saying" is a device you use a lot. What I say is what I say, and it doesn't need to be rewritten unless your goal is to cast it in terms more favorable to your point of view. Off the Bus is important in understanding how Mayhill Fowler began reporting on the presidential campaign. But it's not nearly as important in trying to figure out the ethics of disclosure.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at June 19, 2008 4:17 PM | Permalink

Dan: Read yourself some James Poniewozik at Time.

"What you are really saying" is my way of incorporating the unsaid part of what you're saying into the declared part. I don't think it's as insidious as you suggest. After what you said is sitting there for all to see.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 21, 2008 2:52 PM | Permalink

From the Intro