At the tail end of Hillary’s failing campaign Bill put his foot in it again with some intemperate remarks about a journalist who had written a nasty article about his missus. The remarks only got reported because he made them to a ‘citizen reporter’ for the Huffington Post (a liberal political website).
Jay Rosen of New York University has written a very thorough and balanced article on the ethical dilemma raised When Mayhill Fowler Met Bill Clinton at the Rope Line. The HuffPost reporter Mayhill Fowler was one of a number of ‘amateurs’ recruited to cover the election in a different way to ‘mainstream media’. The Huffpost article is entertaining and reveals something about the nervousness of the Clinton campaign. It was a good example of Networked Journalism that fed in to mainstream media coverage.
But Fowler only got her story because Bill Clinton obviously thought she was just a member of the public. She didn’t say she was a reporter. You can listen to the whole exchange on the HuffPost. His tone was very much that of a cross politician talking to someone he thought was a supporter. Rosen points out that Fowler’s language was that of a supporter not an ‘impartial’ observer.
Does that matter? My basic position is:
- Anything that is said in public by anyone to anyone is fair game.
- What ethics there are apply equally to all reporters, citizen or otherwise.
- If you use dishonest techniques you may get a story but both politicians and public will trust you less in the future.
I think HuffPost were right to publish but their reporter has not covered herself in glory. She admits that. However, I have seen far worse deceit from ‘professional’ hacks. But judge for yourself by reading Rosen’s article.
Thanks to Tim Watts for spotting that.