Pseudonyms and anonymity damage journalism. Bill Moyers writes in his Moyers On America that a free and responsible press underwrites the possibility of successful democracy. A free and responsible press demands that writers take responsibility for their words, which demands that a writer carefully crafts those words to accurately reflect a balance of opinion and research.
Journalism is essentially testimony. To report on an issue is to say “I have researched this to the best of my ability, and I have determined the facts to be as follows.” Just as in a court of law, the value of the journalist’s testimony is closely tied to his or her character and identity. Just as the testimony of an unreliable witness weakens a case, the reporting of an unidentified journalist must be suspect. Responsible journalism requires that the reader have access to the character and identity of the reporter. The facts take on their significance in a context, and so too does the impact of the reporter’s words, where the reporter’s context is his or her biography.
Accountability & Responsibility
There is no activism with anonymity. The anonymous cannot take a stand, for the anonymous are not accountable for their words. Worse, an absence of accountability inevitably degenerates to unreasonable polemic and personal attacks — neither of which are worth a whit to a journalist who holds high the values of a free press and a democratic process. Anonymous arguments have no backbone.
As an observer and an aspiring journalist:
- I will attach my credentials with pride to all that I write.
- I will take responsibility for my research, for my ideas, and for my every word.
- I will endeavor to present reasonable arguments and reference respected sources.
- I will treat my subjects with respect and will respond to my critics and their works with the same respect.
- I will not vandalize ideas and opinions with which I do not agree.
- I will only engage in criticism in an effort to advance an alternative, positive thesis. And I will always advance a positive program when I make a call for change.
These are basic ideals that responsible writers and journalists should embrace. Bloggers intent on producing relevant journalistic works should also embrace these ideals.
As a highly-trafficked blog repository that can make a dent in mainstream media, I humbly and gently suggest sticking to this sort of code (or any reasonable modification of it) and producing works that blow the doors off of the irrational — nigh rabid — hate-mongers posing as pundits on our televisions and in our newspapers.
Who’s with me?