Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Give Journalists Some Privacy

by Jalyssa Eliasen

In Rachel Smolkin’s article “Too Transparent?”, she mentions the daring escapades of Spokesman-Review editor Steven A. Smith in his attempts to be a transparent journalist.

In an investigation of Spokane Mayor Jim West – which sought to uncover West’s abuse of power in pursuing “sexual relationships with boys and young men” – Smith made available raw reporting materials online. This included full transcripts of interviews with the mayor, his alleged victims, and sleazy online conversations with an undercover cop posing as a 17-year-old gay student.

When Smolkin “talked to Smith in early February, he spoke enthusiastically about yet another bold foray into transparency: His staff was preparing to start webcasting the paper’s daily meetings.”

I can understand what Smith is trying to do…increase transparency so more trust can be established between journalists and media consumers…but there must be a line drawn between such overt transparency and a journalist’s privacy to work. In the article Smith mentions his newsroom is very nervous, and they should be. They will have to be more careful with name-calling, slack language, and basically ANYTHING they say since it will all be broadcast to the web.

This seems a bit unfair to those newspeople. Not only do they have to put on a professional face when they are newsgathering, interviewing, and writing, but now they must put on a face when they are in their news meetings. News meetings are supposed to be places for unedited, unabridged, uncensored discussion. News meetings are supposed to allow you to call someone “sleazeball” or “jerk” or “weenie” without any negative consequences! If journalists don’t have an outlet for their emotions even within their own newsrooms…if journalists are monitored 24/7…then they’ll simply go crazy.

Smith is going too far with this transparency idea. There needs to be breathing room for journalists to just be people behind closed doors. Known video blogger and free-lance journalist Josh Wolf has a few things to say about journalism transparency:

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