Monday, October 26, 2009

Watching the blogging dog . . .

NPR News sent out new social media guidelines about 10 days ago. The gist of them is that if you report for NPR (which this reporter occasionally does) or if you report for an NPR station (which this reporter does regularly), you should keep your reporterly objectivity in place while you blog, twitter, or post on your own Facebook page or anyone else's.

In other words you are to consider social media as public spaces. So going public on them with your personal opinions taints the objectivity of your on-air reporting. You become just another Lou Dobbs, someone who voices personal opinions from behind the bully pulpit of a news desk.

These new social media guidelines mean no rants, raves, or ramblings by NPR reporters (or NPR station reporters) that could jeopardize NPR News' reputation for impartial reporting. 

As a reporter who blogs for her beloved NPR station, I'd already figured out that once you're a reporter, you're never not a reporter. In dealing with opinion, my job is to elicit and report other people's in a compelling way, rather than voice my own.

Maintaining objectivity is something I regularly worry about when posting on this blog. I need to be present here -- what fun would it to e-converse with someone whose personality remains completely opaque -- without expressing my own personal point of view. This blog's purpose is to jump-start informed conversation, not fuel argument or outrage.

Confession time: I do have personal opinions, quite passionate opinions, about politics, religion, the environment, education -- in fact, about almost everything!  But if they ever show up blatantly in this blog, I hope you will, as our president said of those who oppose programs with untruths, call me out on it!


  1. Thank you for a very thought-provoking post. Like many, now, I'm a journalist working sporadically in a shrinking trade--which has led me to take a situational-ethics approach to objectivity. Unwilling to give up either work or activism/self-expression, I simply restrict the latter to topics no one has assigned me to work on. Is objectivity really a myth? Maybe, but the trend toward more opinion and less fact-gathering is regrettable, and motivated by cost-savings. Yet as opinion becomes more often blended with fact-gathering, I have been impressed with a few who do that really well (trying to get all viewpoints, being civil, owning up to mistakes): ex., Maddow, Moyers, Eugene Robinson. Yeah, that gives me away as a Liberal. (One on the other side that I admire is George Will, but only for his writing talent, which shines when he is NOT doing politics or in the journalistic mode.) Having worked seriously in journalism should inoculate anyone from thinking like an ideologue. For me that means rejecting conspiracy theories and Us Versus Them-Think, including or maybe especially on the left, where I spend the most time. -- Chris Edwards (not really anonymous :-)

  2. YOu know, Chris, I wonder if it makes a difference being a freelancer. I felt a lot freer to enter into politics when I wasn't attached to a news organization. Now I don't even contribute. I adoped this hard-line policy at the suggestion of our former terrific news director, the fabulous David Molpus.