Tuesday, July 15, 2008


UNMUZZLED: Well the breathless babbling at Kaua`iEclectic continues regarding citizen journalism, blogging and other extraneous issues and Doug Carlson, whose questionable ethics Joan brought up after we and Larry Geller excoriated him. Carlson has left another attempted defense, not directed to the actual troublemakers but at the thoughtful musing Joan published on related subjects.

So here’s some of the pertinent fleshing out of our objections from some comments and our replies

First Carlson’s post and our reaction at KauaiEclectic .

Since I'm the subject of much that's written in today's post and comments, let me weigh in.

Anyone who's paid close attention to the transit issue on Oahu since 1990 will know that I've been a consistent supporter of grade-separated transit... almost as visible as Cliff Slater in letters and commentaries, although nobody could be as prolific as Cliff. All of those pieces were written without compensation or connection with a client.

Now comes the Super Fight on Oahu, almost as big as the Superferry fight on Kauai, and I was asked to join the City's team of speakers to give the project's Power Point show to community groups around town. I'm paid a fee to do so, and I told every audience that fact. Nobody got up and left. And as the fight escalated, I was asked two weeks ago to step up my outreach; I decided to write a blog -- http://yes2rail.blogspot.com I have several others, including two on emergency communications; please read them: http://tsunamilessons.blogspot.com

I disclosed my affiliation with the City in the very first Yes2Rail post on June 30 and the next day, too. When Larry Geller asked me about it last week and said he couldn't find my disclosure, I posted a FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT in the largest available type on my blog... in red, at that....and have continued to mention it.

Nothing I'm writing in my blog now is any different than what I wrote over 15+ years as I supported grade-separated transit. But because I'm being paid to give speeches and write about rail, critics conclude that what I'm writing now is tainted.

Sorry. Their logic falls apart. I didn't hide anything and in fact did just the opposite. And I didn't change my position in order to be paid. They're paying me because of my position -- which as an added bonus apparently upsets some people to the point of distraction.

I'm still waiting for the critics to answer this question: What alternative is there to sitting in traffic unless it's grade-separated transit? It's not buses; it's not Lexus Lanes; it's not car pools; it's not jitneys. Only grade-separated transit -- rail or otherwise -- delivers the commuter to his or her destination on time, every time. Nothing else can do that.

Rather than step up to this key issue, critics and the anti-rail crowd create smoke around the distractions, like my fee. I call it the Sideshow.

So be it. There's nothing hidden here, including my name, which is more than can be said for 99% of the posters of comments on the newspapers' sites. I will continue to argue in favor of transit as the logical and only option to avoid traffic. THAT is the Big Tent issue.

Our response?:

You really don’t get it Mr. Carlson.

I could give a rip about Honolulu and rail. But I really hate corrupt practices, especially in government. And the very fact that you have been doing all this (I presume) unpaid work for all these years and putting up public-interest blogs (again presume unpaid) makes it worse. You are trading on journalistic integrity and using the “name” you attained for that work to do a paid PR job, “disclosed” or otherwiseYou make a point of how you actually believe in what you’re getting paid to do- is this because usually you’ll sell anything? Boy that’s a real good way to promote your personal integrity.

Yes, money does change everything. This is not a side issue or distraction. I don’t like the anti-rail people’s silly personal attacks any more than I do yours. But please don’t try to BS me with this crap of you and your pro-rail crowd being “above the side show” when you’re just as bad in that department. As private individuals I really don’t care who the anti rail people “are”.

But the connections of government officials to extremely apparent corruption - the same officials who presumably are, along with the corrupt contractors, paying you - ARE the issue that puts THIS rail project in jeopardy and your ignoring that and getting everyone on the happy bandwagon and your not addressing it by calling it a sideshow is as corrupt as you can get.

There are lots of things that are “good” in concept. Rail-transit for Honolulu is probably one. But the devil is always in the details and the institution of this good idea has been fully corrupted and may be useless to anyone but developers and contractors. That is the central issue here.

And that BS about your “financial privacy” is even worse. No one is asking how much you are getting paid, only that you list those paying you.

I’m sure after all these years as a corporate shill you can’t see how money changes the equation and how you are giving public-interest journalism and news reporting a bad name. And that’s the problem. You can’t see it.

Then there was this from Jim Loomis in our comments section.

Jim asked:

You fail to inform your legion of followers that Doug Carlson has a very long list of credentials in journalism and is universally respected by any professional who has ever dealt with him. Why is it that he cannot be believed or trusted the moment he is paid (a pittance) for his work?
A- If you write for free, you're credible.
B- Any idiot can write for free.
C- Therefore any idiot is credible.

To further clarify what we found objectionable we said this

No that’s not the point Jim. And you make my point by stating Doug’s reputation as a journalist.

I don’t begrudge someone making a living in PR but when they establish a journalistic reputation and then trade on that there is a difference between taking a normal job in PR where the veracity of information you’re disseminating is read without using the credibility of a journalist and conflating it the message with the messenger.

I’ve done PR work for projects causes I believe in. But I don’t go out and use my professional reputation to sell that product. I may use my contacts my writing skills my communication skills but I don’t say “buy this product because you’ve trusted me as a journalist”.

Disclosure helps but it is not the only part of the equation. This is a very serious ethics question these days. Many journalists and reporters will not even take a stipend to appear on a talking-head opinion TV show. And certainly they won’t trade on their credibility by taking an “outside” PR job, especially on the subjects they cover but really on any subject.

No one I know would think it ethical for a city hall reporter take a job lobbying the mayor or lobbying for the mayor or working for one side or another in any matter that could possibly come up before city government. No publisher or editor would stand for it whether “disclosed” or not. And that applies to free lancer too.

Getting paid and what you get paid for- and just as importantly what you don’t get paid for- is a major ethics issue that is becoming more scrutinized every day in journalism and reportage. And the reason I object to the blurring going on here is because it reflects on all journalists when someone does this kind of thing and worse tries to defend it.

Go to Romenesko at Pointer Institute and you’ll see the same conversation going on with virtually no one trying to actually defend these types of things only discussing what can be done about it and perhaps some discussing on how to toe the line.


And while we’re posting comments instead of real blogging today we might as well say that we might have been less than clear as to what precisely we were attempting to communicate in asking “where are they” as the humorless partisans claim that people are just misinformed about Obama and that the New Yorker cartoon adds to that problem.

An anonymous poster took us to task based on a Newsweek poll

He or she said:

"The new poll suggests white voters continue to be a challenge for Obama, with McCain leading the Democrat in that category 48 to 36 percent. Some of Obama's lag in white support may be explained by continual confusion over his religious identity. Twelve percent of voters surveyed said that Obama was sworn in as a United States senator on a Qur'an, while 26 percent believe the Democratic candidate was raised as a Muslim and 39 percent believe he attended an Islamic school as a child growing up in Indonesia. None of these things is true.

"Newsweek story here:http://www.newsweek.com/id/145737/page/2

Are you suggesting Newsweek is making this up?

The actual poll:http://www.newsweek.com/id/145556

1200+ real people called and interviewed.

question 16 on page 8 is the source of the data re the dis info.

and here's a Youtube for you Andy.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcXjeOLOX6o

And perhaps our sentence yesterday regarding the New Yorker magazine’s satirical cover cartoon wasn’t very elegantly expressed. We probably buried the point we were trying to make about those that “believe” things to be true to the point where they are not ever going to be “informed” and the relationship to the complaints of the Obama campaign. We clarified by saying this:

Based on a comment above, I might have glossed over too much the fact that there are a group of people- and I’m not sure how the Newsweek poll was conducted so can’t vouch for its accuracy- who will filter the factual material about Obama through enough “beliefs” that no amount of correct information will change their minds.

But by definition that’s not who those who deride the cartoon are talking about because they objections presume that these people are just not “educated” as to the facts yet and would “learn the truth” if this type of “too tongue in cheek” thing wasn’t published.

There is a set of people in every population who will never be educated on certain matters because they don’t want to be. Heck there are millions who believe Bush/Chaney were telling the truth in the run up to Iraq. But they are not the ones who people think will have their ideas reinforced by the cartoon whereas otherwise they might all of a sudden WANT TO learn the facts. They are rather the uneducable and are not part of the equation for those who claim the cartoon reinforces their misperception that needs to be corrected.


Anonymous said...

what about:

So just where are all these dumb people and why haven’t we heard from them? If you listen to the pontificating press you’d think that half the country believes that Barack Obama is an anti-American, Muslim terrorist because their brother-in-law sent them an email. Yet no one has bothered to dig one of those people up to interview him or her and prove their hypothesis.

This was my objection. Twelve to 40% of the population believes falsehoods about Obama based on a scientific poll of 1200+ people around the country. While the MSM sucks a-- for the most part, the data is real and people have gone out to try to figure out who these people are. I

f you look, you'll find. You committed the very sin you decry--relying on your own gut and bias rather than looking for information THEN reaching a conclusion.

No one is just making up the great unwashed, reactionary, Republican base. They are real and they are legion. Spend some time in Kansas. Makes Kauai look like a Mensa convention.

shannon said...

crooksandliars: How would the right react with a NYer graphic of McCain screaming at his first wife while she signs the divorce papers—one arm is behind his back—he's handing Cindy a box of chocolate candies as she kicks over a bag full of cash that's marked Beer money while a Keating jet is parked outside the window. Well those are mostly true…

Moot point? iLind.net: Interesting news that the Stop Rail folks may have stumbled in the wording of their petition by calling for a vote “at a special election”. The city is now saying that this disqualifies the question from being on the general election ballot even if enough signatures are collected. And the Advertiser’s story today quotes Eric Ryan, described as the campaign manager for Stop Rail Now. I wasn’t paying enough attention and did not know that. You may remember Ryan’s recent incarnation as a vocal critic of Gov. Lingle.

As the lava flows.....