Full Disclosure for Journalists

Will Collier, remarking on Mickey Kaus’ admission that he donated $300 to the Kerry campaign, wonders why such disclosures aren’t standard practice.

It’s a hard-and-fast ethical standard among financial reporters and columnists that they disclose any personal stake they have in companies, funds, or people that they’re covering. Why should news writers be any different? Would the republic collapse if Peter Jennings announced that he wouldn’t vote for George W. Bush even if he were offered a lifetime supply of aged Coulommiers brie? Would Jennings’ viewers really be so mis-served to know in straightforward terms where he’s coming from?

If James Glassman is expected to reveal in every column which companies he’s invested in, why shouldn’t Dana Milbank and Adam Nagourney have full-disclosure blurbs about how they voted in the last couple of elections, to say nothing about how they plan to vote this year? Is there any good reason why not?

To save space, we could limit it to those who voted Republican.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Boyd says:

    Could Jennings even contribute legally? Isn’t he still a Canadian citizen?

    Not that it matters much to Will’s central point, but the question came to mind.

  2. Joseph Marshall says:

    Yes, there is a good reason why not. It’s called the “secret ballot”, a cornerstone to fair and free elections.

    Beyond that, however, the fatuous right-wing notion that reporters or correspondents should somehow have no political opinions of their own (or at least no opinions that the right-wing would disagree with) is just another of the ridiculous fantasies that emerge from that quarter. People are not robots. They have the opinions they have and there’s an end on it.

    The most anyone can ask is that reporters and correspondents not make a nuisance of themselves with their political opinions, when they claim to be providing straight information.

    Tresspasses in this direction are, of course, unavoidable occasionally, and harder to avoid in an electoral atmosphere as poisoned as our own. But in such an atmosphere they are also self-correcting and Peter Jennings has been given plenty of hell for his lapses.

  3. Rob says:

    For the record, this member of the right-wing doesn’t expect that reporters be devoid of opinions on the subjects they cover. All I ask is that they wear those opinions on their sleeves. Let the the people decide if a reporter’s story is objective or not given that reporter’s opinions.

    That’s one of the greatest things about the blogoshpere. When you go to a blog its usually readily evident what the political leanings of the author are.

  4. McGehee says:

    Beyond that, however, the fatuous right-wing notion that reporters or correspondents should somehow have no political opinions of their own

    Sorry, Joseph, but what’s fatuous is the idea that’s what right-wingers believe. Like Rob, I for one would simply prefer that they not try to pretend they don’t have opinions if they do.

    The idea that reporters can pretend not to have opinions when they obviously do, is what’s corroding the credibility of Big Media.

  5. Paul says:

    Here Joseph, I’ll make you feel better. I have feelings… I fell you are an idiot.

    Nobody said they can’t have an ideology. They should NOT, however, let it sway their coverage.

    I don’t expect you to be able to understand the difference.

  6. Joseph Marshall says:

    Well, Paul, sometimes I feel that way about myself, too, particularly when my fingers don’t put down on the keyboard quite what my mind intended. Which occurs often enough on blogs like these.

    One of the secrets of life, I find, is to try hard not to be a fool. No matter how foolish you are (and I am massively foolish) there is always hope for improvement.