Monday, December 13, 2004

# Posted 12:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACCOUNTABILITY: Both the previous post and one from earlier today were pretty hard on journalists. So now let's turn to our own failures. CBS News reports that
Two leading South Dakota blogs – websites full of informal analysis, opinions and links – were authored by paid advisers to [Senator-elect John] Thune’s campaign.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader and the National Journal first cited Federal Election Commission documents showing that Jon Lauck, of Daschle v Thune, and Jason Van Beek, of South Dakota Politics, were advisers to the Thune campaign.

The documents, also obtained by CBS News, show that in June and October the Thune campaign paid Lauck $27,000 and Van Beek $8,000. Lauck had also worked on Thune’s 2002 congressional race.

Both blogs favored Thune, but neither gave any disclaimer during the election that the authors were on the payroll of the Republican andidate.
Lauck responds to the CBS story here. Van Beek comments here. Power Line says
My instinct is that the bloggers' relationship with the Thune campaign should have been disclosed on the blogs (as it apparently was, but obscurely, in FEC filings).
I agree. Prof. Lauck and I had a number of exchanges via e-mail, which got me interested in his blog and resulted in my praising his work without reservation. Now I feel deceived. I would have evaluated Prof. Lauck's work very differently if I knew he were being supported by the Thune campaign.

Now the quesiton is, do I -- and all those who linked to Daschle v Thune -- owe our readers an apology? Should we have a system in place for vetting the websites we link to?

I don't know the answer to that question. There isn't much you can do to protect yourself from someone who is being intentionally deceptive -- especially when such individuals are peddling opinions rather than facts. Before going to air, CBS had an obligation to verify the accusations it levelled at George W. Bush. But you can't verify an opinion.

On the other hand, shouldn't bloggers make some effort to assess the credibility of the sources? Should we have a formal code of ethics that would at least deter some deception? Again, I don't know. But I'm open to ideas.
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