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Monday, March 07, 2005

Boston Globe reporters can't have a political life

Christine Chinlund, Boston Globe Ombudsman, writes today to explain why reporters are expected to be robots without any political thoughts of their own. Check out what they've done to tech writer Hiawatha Bray.

Boston.com / News / Boston Globe / Opinion / Op-ed / Blog report:
Last November the Globe learned that technology reporter Hiawatha Bray was posting his political views on a web log. The editors warned him not to continue. Even with no explicit Globe rules at that point governing what's OK in the largely uncharted, semi-public/semi-private world of blogging, Bray's anti-Kerry and pro-Bush rhetoric was at odds with the impartiality expected of journalists. Bray agreed to stop.

End of story -- until last week, when a liberal online media watchdog group reported what Bray had written. That brought dozens of angry e-mails to this office; some said fire Bray.

Responds Baron: ''Mr. Bray is a technology reporter and did not cover the presidential campaign, other than a minor technology-related story on very rare occasions. That said, his blog postings were inappropriate and in violation of our standards.' Thus, the November warning.

Said Bray: ''I don't cover politics for the Globe and figured that gave me a fair amount of leeway. I'm a lowly tech writer; who'd care what I thought about the election? Turns out, a lot of people did.'

''I make no apology . . . for my opinions. But I do apologize for expressing them in a venue that might lead some to suppose that my employers share them.'"
Notice how the Globe doesn't want to link to the 'liberal online media watchdog group', so I had to do it for you.

Monitortan: The mental meanderings of Hiawatha Bray, technology reporter for the Boston Globe.

David Weinberger writes, It's about transparency, not impartiality:
Just how stupid does the Globe think its readers are? Do we really believe that tech writers and sports writers and style writers don't have political views? Do we think that out of the office they go slack-jawed when asked who they're voting for? No, we understand that because they're professional journalists, they do a reasonable job of keeping their personal political views out of their writing.

Transparency works better than reprimands. I'd rather know a reporter's views so I can understand where the journalist is coming from and can compensate for those views if they affect the journalist's writing.

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