Raising Its Ugly Head

This morning I woke up to find this in my email box. I figured I’d share it with you, jus’ in case something becomes of it – and lordy – I hope nothing does. It’s a lot to read, but I hope you enjoy its ridiculousness:

Saturday, August 12, 2006
Sparks Tribune’s Tom Darby Takes Strange Trip to Cobblerville
Just when you think the whole “Who is CobbGobbler?” search couldn’t become any more bizarre, in bumbles a new super-sleuth touting secret ties to the National Security Agency, constitutional protection and threats of going to Dick Gammick. Oh, and he also has solved the mystery and helped save (or, perhaps, implicate) an unnamed candidate from disgrace by giving him time to “correct any paperwork deficits that might exist”. I know you’re probably thinking that it is just some crank blogger who is drifting in and out of their own fantasy world and, sadly, you are only half right. You see, our sleuth is also intrepid Sparks Tribune city reporter Tom Darby. And before you start shouting “MSM! MSM!”, remember, it’s the Sparks Tribune. Now, if you haven’t read it yet in the paper (though he says his editor is prepared to go with a “three or four part series”) , that’s because it is posted only on his blog — Tom Uses His Words. While Darby uses his words he, unfortunately, doesn’t appear to use his brains. Apparently overlooking the fact that the CobbGobbler brouhaha had been well-researched on Mr Jerz and Inside Nevada Politics, he missed the whole juicy story of cobbgobbler.com being registered in Mike Dillon’s (Ty Cobb’s opponent in AD-26) name. Instead he zeroes in on the Chuck Smith registration of cobbgobbler.net. But that is minor compared to the wild story he spins on his blog. Now in the tale Darby purports to be true he uses code names for the participants to protect their privacy. To make it easy on Dullard Mush readers I’ll translate. “#1” is the CobbGobbler, “#2” is Eric Odom and “Friend” is failed AD-26 candidate Richard Disney. The excitement all apparently began August 6 when #1, errr CobbGobbler, emailed Darby asking him to investigate Cobb’s residency. Instead of using his reporter resources to quickly determine that the residence in question was legal (like Mr. Jerz and the Dullard Mush did), Darby turns to the NSA! That’s right, the agency that is supposedly protecting us from terrorism apparently moonlights off/duty by tracking down IP addresses for “drinking buddies” had made the determination that the CobbGobbler is none other than … Eric Odom. So after telling CobbGobbler/Odom that the “NSA already has you. You might as well come out and play legally,” Darby continues by letting him know that if he had only given himself up he would have protected him. With the solemn code of a journalist’s right to protect sources, you ask? No, it’s because Darby is “a true Constitutionalist”. At this point Odom (code name “2”, which I’m sure he loves) emails Darby to complain about being blamed for the web site. He denies being the CobbGobbler and the two go back and forth until a third party joins the fray. The third party, only identified by Darby as a “friend”, is none other than Disney, who readers will recognize as the first figure in the whole NICPAC business-for-endorsement scandal. And, adding to the intrigue, Odom was cofounder of NICPAC and paid consultant to Disney. As all good journalists do when presented with an interesting story, Darby threatens to “turn it over to (the) Washoe County District Attorney for review.” But, in a nice gesture to Disney, he writes Odom he is “hesitating to give (Disney) enough time to correct any paperwork deficits that might exist. I don’t want him to go down because of your silliness.” I’m sure Richard appreciates the implication. Of course Disney doesn’t help himself as he later writes Darby, “It does not bode well. As far as paperwork, I have everything filed correctly. What other paperwork can you think of that I might need?” and the always confidence-inspiring “I have an appointment to meet with my attorney to make sure all of my bases are covered. Thanks for the heads up.” So what is one to make of all this. Is Eric Odom the CobbGobbler? Or his Tom Darby just a weaver of tall tales who, at best, is a blowhard with a semi-vivid imagination, at worst, an ethically-challenged journalist who would tip off a political friend to something illegal? While I’d being willing to bet the CobbGobbler is someone associated with Odom’s Battle Born News, the writing styles of the two don’t really seem to match. As for Darby, perhaps his editor should take a peek at his blogs. I’m sure if she did, Darby would be able to blog full-time from the comfort of his home.

UPDATE (8/22): On Monday, August 21, the Sparks Tribune banned blogs by staff members. Darby’s blog went dark soon after.

Posted by The Anon Guy at 8:32 PM

9 comments:

Cobbler said…
I am not the smartest guy in the world but Tom Darby makes me look like a genius. Tom Darby is the opposite of anonymous. Several posts down on his blog he starts talking about anger management classes and his other psychoses. Information nobody should make public.

Sat Aug 12, 09:50:00 PM PDT
Anonymous said…
And if you are so much smarter than Darby/Hardy, than why are you reading his blog and worrying over what he has to say? Maybe he has your number. He writes about everything in his life including his A/M classes, getting arrested, PTSD, the VA and having to take meds and the whole nine yards. He has taken all the ammo out of your pockets. Good for him. It levels the playing field. Kaysee Johnson

Sun Aug 13, 08:52:00 PM PDT
The Anon Guy said…
I think the issue is his journalistic integrity, or lack thereof, as a city reporter for the Sparks Tribune. Not his personal life. (thanks for noticing “Hardy”)

Sun Aug 13, 11:00:00 PM PDT
Cobbler said…
I wouldn’t say I am worrying over what he has to say as much as I am surprised he put all that stuff on a public blog. It appears you have read much more deeply than I have, I didn’t know he was arrested or is taking meds. My point in saying he is not that smart is that if you are playing poker, it is not wise to show all of your cards. His messages definitely have a challenging confrontational tone. In any challenge or competition, I don’t see how makeing everything about yourself available to your competitor in any way helps him or levels the playing field. Supposedly Tom Darby is an ex-military guy. In a military situation when is it ever advantageous to let the enemy know your plan and what makes you tick? How does publicizing your secrets (especially when those secrets undermine your credibility) level the playing field?

Mon Aug 14, 12:35:00 AM PDT
Kay said…
Tom Darby is at least honest in his intentions. The Cobbgobbler has been deceptive and you have done what Tom would not do, exposed everyone by name. Maybe you should have taken the time to read his entire blog instead just bits and pieces. Sorry that you think you are playing a game like poker. Tom isn’t a player. He see’s people’s personal lives being ruined and that is the crux of what the gobbler is up to. In the time I have know Tom he has been an upstanding man who is willing to place his personal values on the line at the risk of public exposure. Evidently, neither of you share this same quality and because of that, you have to rely on attacking others to make yourself feel better. This makes you nothing more than “Blogging Bullies” in the political arena. This is a term Tom has come up with to describe characters such as yourselves who cannot get real jobs working in the real media or with real campaigns. My opinion is that Ty Cobb Jr. has done none of the things you keep saying. The reason: Tom has fully investigated the allegations you have leveled against the man and found them to be false. His opponent Mike Dillion has skeletons in his closet but those have been legally cared for by the State of California, so all is fair in love and politics. So blog on and have fun. Attack away. Make up more stuff and make up more situations that aren’t true because you cannot get the facts straight. That is the “Bulling Blogger” way. Kay P.S. What two branches of the military did you serve in as Tom Darby did from 1978 to 1984?

Mon Aug 14, 12:09:00 PM PDT
The Anon Guy said…
Darby’s military record, personal issues or that you like him are not at issue. Neither are Cobb, Dillon or the CobbGobbler. The fact that Darby threatened a source and, most important of all, tipped off Disney to possible legal action are egregious violations of the code of ethics reporters everywhere (except, I guess, the Sparks Tribune) follow.

Mon Aug 14, 12:56:00 PM PDT
Anonymous said…
Anon guy, can you send me your e-mail addy? I’d like to send you the full e-mail conversation. Mr. Darby left out some important parts. – code name #2 ericjodom AT gmail DOT com

Wed Aug 16, 12:29:00 AM PDT
Anonymous said…
Well, it looks like Tom Darby took his psychy and ran away. He shut down his blog, but not before I copied some choice posts in case he continues his threatening ways. Well, Kay, I guess your open and straightforward champion decided full disclosure wasn’t as good as you made it out to be. Cobbler http://www.cobbgobbler.net

Mon Aug 21, 06:36:00 PM PDT
The Anon Guy said…
Actually I had written the Tribune editor this weekend and she replied today saying that all blogs were ceasing as of 11:30 this morning. She seemed to be a little upset and under the impression I was Eric Odom. She also, I gather, was not fully aware of what all had been posted by Darby. I replied explaining my standpoint and noted that only the post regarding the Sparks candidate had been removed. Soon after the entire blog disappeared. So I’m not sure if there was any disciplinary action or just a new “no blog” policy. Like I said, the editor seemed angry that the whole situation was pointed out. An unusual response when a paper’s integrity is at stake. But maybe she will write back.

Saturday, September 23, 2006
The Darby Affair Goes International
When your blog starts to receive hits at two in the morning from Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Canada and Nairobi, something has got to be going on. Apparently that something was the whole Tom Darby/Sparks Tribune blogger/reporter controversy that raged here for awhile. In short, Darby posted a personal and very partisan political blog on the side while working as a city reporter for the Sparks, NV, newspaper. It got a little ugly, and even a little more wacky, but the end result was the Tribune pulled the plug. Well now Cyberjournalist.net, published in partnership with The Online News Association, has picked up the story and posted a blurb on their site. And from there, the story was picked up by Visual Editors and a site from the Netherlands…

1 comments:

Cobbler said…
Pretty funny how our little local scandal got picked up around the world. Tom Darby, thanks for the memories. Goes to show that these types of ethical lapses are not isolated to Northern Nevada! Great coverage Anon!

Tue Sep 26, 07:18:00 AM PDT
Good Stuff and Funny Commentator HatsDullard Mush has been e-mailing questions to candidates and they’ve been–gasp–responding. Have a read of the Q&A with Bob Beers, State Assemblyperson Heidi Gansert, and some guy running for the GOP prez domination. Mush also had an interesting series about Tom Darby, a reporter for the Sparks Tribune, who started up a partisan blog. It turns out that Darby seems to have some problems with reality, which would undermine his journalistic acumen a tad, and his paper ended up banning reporters from blogging due to some of Darby’s high-jinx.
But I actually side with Darby on this one. Neither reporters nor columnists should be banned from blogging. I think a journalist can wear two hats. Assuming he or she adheres to standards of balance and accuracy while wearing a reporter’s hat, why shouldn’t they be allowed to rant like a ‘Monger while wearing a funny columnist’s hat? Most of us have the ability to distinguish the editorial pages from the rest of the paper, so why can’t the same person write for both, as long as they have different standards of style and verification in the two roles? Of course, in blogs it’s different, since there aren’t any kind of professional standards. Heck, where are the “professionals”? Perhaps in the case of bloggers, especially those run by professional journalists, they should state clearly in a profile  or “about” page whether their site is mainly informative or a pure rant-site.
Consider Sebelius’ site. Now there’s a ranter. But his background was and is as a columnist. Should he be banned from writing a news story, should City Life ever have need of one? More interesting is Inside Nevada Politics which is run by reporters, not columnists. Is it an informative site. or does it have a political leaning? (And is that the difference between Hagar and Damon?) Tom Darby’s bosses might pull the plug on something like INP.
And the papes in Las Vegas offer no guidance since they are run by corporate megalomaniacs with partisan axes to grind. How long ago was it that they were fighting over who was giving the biggest payoff to special interests? About two weeks now?
So, I say, blog on! newspaper folk.
Except, wait. That means more competition for us amateurs. Drat.

Tom Darby’s Ethics Questioned…Again
The Anon Guy over at his blog mulls the question of whether a newspaper reporter like Tom Darby of the Sparks Tribune can be ethical and objective in his reporting when he has a personal blog that demonstrates one very biased perspective.
Because of Tom Darby, the Sparks Tribune has made it official policy that no employees can have a personal blog. The Anon Guy has been all over this from the start and I congratulate him on his coverage.
The strangest parts of the emails I received from Darby were his insistence on an incorrect accusation and his invocation of the NSA as if they National Security Agency was investigating this little regional political opinion site. Now that I think of it, another weird thing about Tom Darby’s email was that if I went “legit” he would somehow wrap me in Constitutional protections that the 1st Amendment hadn’t already provided.
Tom Darby is a strange misguided individual. Congratulations Sparks Tribune on your employee of the month!

Posted: August 31, 2006
Tom Darby…The Biter is Bit!
After threats to yours truly and multiple false allegations made by the Sparks Tribune reporter, Tom Darby it appears that Tom’s employers are none too pleased with Darby’s activities.
The Anon Guy who has become a great addition to the local political blogging circuit covers the whole Tom Darby debacle.
Great to see true investigative journalism in action! Nice to see The Anon Guy beat Darby at his own game. Tom Darby, you could learn many things from the very bloggers you attack.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006 at 8:30 am

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Sparks Tribune Bans Blogs By Staff Members After Darby Controversy
Following the controversy over ethical and political revelations on a Sparks Tribune reporter’s personal web site, the Nevada newspaper moved to ban the publishing of blogs by staff members. “Yes, the Tribune does have policies and procedures,” wrote Angela Mann, Tribune editor, in a terse email to us. “And as of now, 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, there will be no blogs published by the Sparks Tribune and our web site.” At issue was city reporter Tom Darby’s personal blog, Tom Uses His Words, where he, among other things, endorsed a candidate for Nevada governor, attacked other candidates, told a source the National Security Agency had uncovered his identity and published a complaint letter a Sparks candidate had written the paper over alleged bias in reporting. All actions most media outlets consider a breach of journalistic ethics. But, perhaps most egregious, was Darby tipping his friend and Assembly District-26 GOP candidate Richard Disney to possible legal action. All of which was reported in detail on Darby’s blog. (As of Monday afternoon, Darby’s site had been taken down. However, a cached version of this was still available on Google.) The controversy began when Darby became aware of a local anonymous political web site, the CobbGobbler. In the course of his investigation for a possible Tribune story, Darby came to believe political activist Eric Odom was behind the site (a charge Odom denies) and made veiled threats of legal action and the NSA being on to him. He emailed Odom, “My thought is to turn it over to Washoe County District Attorney Richard Gammick for review. However I’m hesitating to give Richard (Disney) enough time to correct any paperwork deficits that might exist. I don’t want him to go down because of your silliness.” Darby did warn Disney, emailing him to “get your paperwork in order. Your so called friends in this political machine have tossed you to the wolves. They don’t [sic] care whether you are the most conservative or not. They evidently are out to either win or destroy.” Disney replied worriedly, “I saw the article on (CobbGobbler) referencing the email that you copied to me. It does not bode well. As far as paperwork, I have everything filed correctly. What other paperwork can you think of that I might need?I don’t know why they would go after me; I pulled out of the race. What benefit do they have in going after me? I though the site was comical at first but I wish the whole thing would just go away. I have an appointment to meet with my attorney to make sure all of my bases are covered. Thanks for the heads up.” Further investigation of posts on Tom Uses His Words, found that Darby had endorsed Jim Gibbons for governor. In the same story he also berated gubernatorial candidate Lorraine Hunt and her campaign manager. Other posts included attacks on State Senator Bob Beers and referring to U.S. Senator Harry Reid as “Pinky”. Also incurring the ire of Darby was Sparks Municipal Judge candidate Doug Nicholson who had written an email to Mann complaining of a perceived Tribune bias in favor of incumbent Jim Spoo. Darby published the letter on his blog. Follow-up questions regarding the status of Darby and more specifics on their policies have not been returned by the Tribune.

Posted by The Anon Guy at 8:28 PM

1 comments:
Anonymous said…
You are showing another “reason for blogs”, to keep the so-called Main Stream Media accountable.

Saturday, September 23, 2006
The Darby Affair Goes International
When your blog starts to receive hits at two in the morning from Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Canada and Nairobi, something has got to be going on. Apparently that something was the whole Tom Darby/Sparks Tribune blogger/reporter controversy that raged here for awhile. In short, Darby posted a personal and very partisan political blog on the side while working as a city reporter for the Sparks, NV, newspaper. It got a little ugly, and even a little more wacky, but the end result was the Tribune pulled the plug. Well now Cyberjournalist.net, published in partnership with The Online News Association, has picked up the story and posted a blurb on their site. And from there, the story was picked up by Visual Editors and a site from the Netherlands…

Posted by The Anon Guy at 7:03 PM

1 comments:
Cobbler said…
Pretty funny how our little local scandal got picked up around the world. Tom Darby, thanks for the memories. Goes to show that these types of ethical lapses are not isolated to Northern Nevada! Great coverage Anon!

– Krant trekt zijn weblogs in – Ton | Vrijdag 22 September

Verslaggevers mogen niet meer een weblog bijhouden op de Daily Sparks Tribune, aldus hoofdredacteur Angela Mann op het weblog Dullard Mush. Oorzaak is het persoonlijke weblog van een van de medewerkers aan de krant, Tom Darby, waar hij, in de woorden van Dullard Mush, zich niet zo erg aan de journalistieke ethiek hield. Tom is using his words, het bewuste weblog, is inmiddels ook uit de lucht. Maar een krant zonder weblogs, hoe ouderwets en uit de tijd bovendien.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006
What the Experts Say Regarding Reporter Blog Controversy
Can a supposed unbiased newspaper reporter also publish a personal blog with distinct political opinions and not harm their, or their media outlet’s, aura of impartiality? That’s the question raised following the recent controversy over Sparks Tribune city reporter Tom Darby and his blog, Tom Uses His Words. Filled with political attacks, endorsements and other revelations (including warning a political candidate of possible legal action he had uncovered in the course of investigating a story), the blog seemed to violate a myriad of journalism’s code of ethics. The New York Times, for instance, specifically forbids staff members from donating or endorsing candidates, or campaigning for any ballot measure or cause, noting “Journalists have no place on the playing fields of politics.” Warning members to “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived,” the Code of Ethics created by the Society of Professional Journalists also urges them to “…shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.” But what about in actual practice? The answer may be less cut and dried. The Darby incident recently became a topic of discussion among University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) journalism professors. On their site, RSJ Faculty Blog, they debated the merits of transparency and the concept of impartiality itself. “Because Darby is being open about his opinions, he’s allowing readers the kind of insight that will better allow them to sift his newspaper reports and decide for themselves what perspectives or biases might have impacted the reporting process,” wrote UNR lecturer and Reno News and Review contributor Deidre Pike. “Transparency is a good thing, right?” Others disagreed. “Blogging in itself is fine. The content of Darby’s blog is in stark conflict with what should be his professional ethics,” answered UNR assistant professor Rosemary McCarthy. “Masquerading as an actual political reporter in print while directly advocating for and against political candidates on a blog is basically dishonest in my view.” And some fell between the two. “I’m going to be wishy-washy. On the one hand, the appearance of a conflict of interest can be as — er — interesting as an actual conflict of interest,” posted another. “But, on the other hand, I can’t see how anybody can ever be totally unbiased. A blog post might provide a hint about what’s going on inside a reporter’s brain. And it might serve as a sort of self-disclosure statement.” “A problem,” he continued, “is that the folks who read a certain newspaper are often not the same folks who read a specific blog. So blogs my not provide the full disclosure that some might desire.” In this specific case, there will be no disclosure as the Sparks Tribune banned blogs by staff members and Darby’s has been shut down.

Posted by The Anon Guy at 7:45 PM

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Ethics Expert Weighs In On Darby and Blogs
One of the more interesting discussions recently has been on the state of the news media, blogs and objectivity. Can the three coexist? Prompted in part by the Tom Darby affair, and whether an impartial reporter can also have a partisan blog, as well as the philosophical question of whether blogs and the press can or should be advocates for a specific viewpoint, we asked journalists for their opinion. The University of Nevada, Reno, journalism faculty took up the topic on their site and were split on the issue. Some thought reporters can’t help but be partisan and the public knowing a reporter’s bias would make for a more informed read. Others thought it was simply unethical. One journalist who subscribes to the latter view is Fred Brown, columnist and retired Capitol bureau chief of the Denver Post. Currently co-chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Ethics Committee, Brown was instrumental in shaping the group’s “Code of Ethics” which has become the industry standard. Known as “Mr. Ethics,” he was national president of the SPJ in 1997-98 and was the recipient Saturday of the 2006 Wells Memorial Key Award (the SPJ’s most prestigious). “What you describe is clearly an unethical practice,” said Brown regarding Darby’s personal, but partisan, blog. “I’m an old-fashioned journalist who believes that material released for general public consumption should be checked carefully and — in the case of a reporter, though not a columnist — careful attention to impartiality. The problem with blogs, which even mainstream media are encouraging, is that they’re expected to be interesting, and impartiality is not considered interesting. Blogs can erode media credibility, which is precisely what we do not need in an environment where so many sources are competing for attention.”

Posted by The Anon Guy at 6:23 PM

2 comments:
Cobbler said…
Not only is Tom Darby unethical, he is misguided in the idea that he can grant special free speech rights beyond what the U.S. Constitution grants to everyone. Then Darby claims to be a “Constitutionalist”. What planet is this guy from? Oh, and Tom, next time you are going to make a bold yet inaccurate accusation, don’t invoke the authority of the NSA. I’ll bet you are not very good at the game Clue.

Wed Aug 30, 09:46:00 PM PDT
Ryan Jerz said…
Anon, I think that the definition of impartial is probably a bit different than objective. Maybe Fred Brown meant that they are the same, but that’s an important distinction. I’m not sure how all this will shake out, but I think the line is being blurred between “professional” journalists and bloggers, many of whom are also journalists. I think you are a journalist, but you’re certainly nor unbiased. Also, you’re not bound by any code of ethics, so you’re relying on the credibility you build to be a success. On another note entirely, I’d love it if you’d email me – even using a fake addy. I am working on something for school and need an anonymous internet personality to talk to for a short time, so if you can do it, contact me.

Thu Aug 31, 12:07:00 AM PDT
Newspaper bans staff blogs after controversy
The Sparks Tribune, a Nevada newspaper, banned staffers from blogging after a reporter endorsed a candidate for Nevada governor and attacked other candidates on his personal blog, according to a blog called Dullard Mush.
“Yes, the Tribune does have policies and procedures,” wrote Angela Mann, Tribune editor, in an email to Dullard Mush. “And as of now, 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, there will be no blogs published by the Sparks Tribune and our web site.”

Saturday, August 19, 2006
What is Blogging’s Purpose in This World?
Mr Jerz was recently in a class where the guest speaker was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. The topic turned to bloggers and, perhaps not surprisingly, the speaker was not overly impressed by them. The discussion prompted Mr. Jerz to contemplate what is the purpose of bloggers and invited people to answer. Since I’m relatively new to blogs my opinion may either be hopelessly naive or off base, but here goes. I think the vast majority of blogging is of the personal nature and is really the result of the world’s obsession with celebrity. Instead of unlocking your diary and writing of your deepest desires and fears, or what the cafeteria was serving and who sat next to you in math, you can now put it on the web for the entire world to see. Then there are also the specialized sites that reflect one’s expertise or obsession but they appear to be more a labor of love than a form of exhibitionism. But I think that when most people, or at least the media, think of bloggers and blogging it is the political arena they point to. And the guest speaker is right in that most political sites are either aggregators of news (usually the mainstream media they are always denigrating) and/or are commentators on it. He’s used to investigating, vetting sources, running it through editors and keeping it as balanced as possible, while the world of political blogging seems to be just the opposite. While it’s true blogs have broken some stories, most seem to fall into the trap of masquerading opinions and agendas as hard news. When you look at political blogs they inevitably fall either into the liberal or conservative category and publish “news” from that viewpoint. In many instances it is just forwarding as fact something they read from another blog. A case in point was a recent story in Nevada blogs that popped up late in the primary campaign. It was picked up by both sides of the political blog spectrum and used to promote their particular viewpoint on the election. However, it appears nobody bothered to actually check the facts. It sounded a little fishy to me so I looked into it and was told that it hadn’t happened (I’m waiting to double-check it Monday). I’ll post it later in the week, but will the blogs that hyped it offer a retraction, like newspapers normally do? I doubt it. It will just stay out there floating on the internet as fact. I think this is part of the reason why the news media generally looks down at blogs. That said, blogs can bring together like-minded people from all over the world that would normally never meet, whether it is about politics or knitting. Together they can exchange ideas and actions that can enrich or motivate someone who might never have thought of it. So I think that while blogging’s strengths are in the forming of communities that share a similar viewpoint or interest, it is also probably it’s biggest weakness when it comes to the objective reporting the public expects from legitimate news sources. But forget about my ramblings. If you have an opinion on what blogging means or their purpose in life or how they fit in the world of news go to Mr. Jerz’s page and let him know.

Posted by The Anon Guy at 4:29 PM

4 comments:

rob@blogoftheday.org said…
Great blog! I’ve added a link to your blog on Blog of the Day under the category of Blogging. To view the feature of your blog, please visit http://blogoftheday.org/page/111987

Sat Aug 19, 06:43:00 PM PDT
The Anon Guy said…
Thank you very much.

Sat Aug 19, 08:03:00 PM PDT
Rich said…
I’ve read your posts on RGJ blog and thought I’d drop by to see your blog. Nice start, Anon. To touch on this post a bit, I wrote a short piece in June 2005 (and a few others) that touched on this subject a bit, citing a study that found the Internet is seen as the most trusted media source for consumers, decisively outstripping offline media. It seems people are more comfortable with an upfront biased opinion or objective expert rather than offline media generalist that claims objectivity, but sometimes falls short in this arena. Interesting. For example, a consumer might read, let’s say, Consumer Reports to help choose a car. Then, they settle on a VW and visit the VW site. They augment the company’s information with perhaps another media review, but also several independent online posts from bloggers (non-media). From all this information, both biased and objective, the consumer draws their opinion. Deciding on a candidate is not much different. In sum, considering that some blogs are now outstripping national media organizations in terms of total impressions, I think that bloggers are meeting the unmeet informational needs of the public. Long term, I hope, those bloggers who eventually learn to practice the theory of objective and responsible reporting within their niche, have the greatest potential to succeed.

Mon Aug 21, 10:22:00 AM PDT
Anonymous said…
I think blogs fulfill the role of the pamphleteer in Colonial times. Like Thomas Payne or The Federalist, blogs allow anonymity to say what needs to be said. Blogs are a revolution similar to movable type because now anyone with internet access can have a newspaper that is picked up by the RSS feed that even the AP uses. If a blog is really good, it gains in readership. If it isn’t good it fades. I took a short break after the end of the primary, but I am back. Cobbler http://www.cobbgobbler.net

Mon Aug 21, 06:30:00 PM PDT

Sunday, August 20, 2006
Sparks political reporter’s blog raises ethical questions
Sparks Tribune political reporter Tom Darby writes a personal political blog that involves many of the subjects he covers for the daily paper. This was brought to my attention by the person who writes the Nevada blog, Dullard Mush. While the Dullard Mush writer feels that Darby’s two forums reflect a conflict of interest and are downright unethical, I maintained that reporters are entitled to their opinions along with the freedom to express them. Because Darby is being open about his opinions, he’s allowing readers the kind of insight that will better allow them to sift his newspaper reports and decide for themselves what perspectives or biases might have impacted the reporting process. Transparency is a good thing, right? RGJ reporters Anjeanette Damon and Ray Hagar also write a blog, “Inside Nevada Politics,” though it runs on the newspaper’s Web site and is clearly under the RG-J’s editorial control.

posted by Deidre at 9:00 AM

10 Comments:

I believe blogs such as Darby’s are problematic though somewhat helpful at the same time. Blogging in itself is fine. The content of Darby’s blog is in stark conflict with what should be his professional ethics. News professionals have obligations to the profession as well as rights as individuals but must make a value judgment about which one takes precedence and then be consistent in practice. Masquerading as an actual political reporter in print while directly advocating for and against political candidates on a blog is basically dishonest in my view. The somewhat helpful aspect here is that those readers who go to Darby’s blog, do indeed get a clear picture of his political thinking. They also will see, for instance, that his writing is sloppy and that he resorts to name-calling. Both of these may help readers reach conclusions about the quality of his reporting. That helps. Some would say he is more honest than other reporters because he’s is not lying about what he thinks. It’s all there on his blog. Well, that’s not enough for me. It’s incomplete and assumes that all readers are able and willing to check out the blog. Ah, this could be very good – expecting that readers can be responsible for some checking things out. Yes, I like it. But we’re not there yet. That’s not how journalism works for the most part – not yet. It still rests on the article of faith (flimsy perhaps) that journalists are primarily committed to providing factual, supported, even-handed reporting and are not unduly influenced by political agendas. (I don’t claim that pure objectivity exists, just that trying for it has its place here.) Yes, transparency is a good thing when it’s complete, instantly accessible and universal. I don’t think it’s being transparent to say one thing in one place and another somewhere else essentially leaving it to the audience to figure it out. Transparency is upfront, constant and across the board. Let’s say for example that – at the least – all journalists should preface every article with a statement of political and religious beliefs. That might be a start. Also, I believe the putative honesty of the blog is outweighed by his readiness to ignore the professional norms of journalism. These norms may be flawed and incomplete but until better ones are universally accepted and understood, Darby is not free to ignore them if he wants to present himself as a journalist. I see him as a pretender cashing in on what little credibility the profession has by holding a job as a reporter while he really wishes to push an agenda. I prefer to see Darby respect the conventions of the profession and bow out as a reporter. He is an advocate for a political view and should be an opinion writer. In fact, the ST should make that decision for him. The situation is more damaging to the paper and the profession than it is to Darby. RMcCarthy

By Anonymous, at 5:03 PM
Thank you Diedre for taking the time to examine this and post it here for discussion. I agree with McCarthy that it reflects more poorly on the Tribune than Darby. While the paper may not be bothered by his endorsement of candidates on his blog, I’d like to think his tactics of giving a “heads up” to political friends regarding possible legal action and posting an email a disgruntled candidate wrote his editor would. As McCarthy noted, and Diedre has mentioned as well, knowing how Darby’s mind works and where his biases are is helpful in decoding (perhaps) his daily stories in the Tribune. But, in my case, the only reason I stumbled upon it was that a “Thomas Darby” had posted a comment on my blog grumbling that I had mentioned the RGJ and that there were two other papers in town, one of which he worked for. When I then read of a reporter threatening someone and saying he was “a Constitutionalist” it was fairly easy to connect the two. But how many of the Tribune’s readers would know this?

By The Anon Guy, at 7:56 PM

I’m going to be wishy-washy. On the one hand, the appearance of a conflict of interest can be as — er — interesting as an actual conflict of interest. To avoid this perception, mainstream reporters have been traditionally encouraged to avoid being perceived as taking sides on almost any issue. Many of the best business reporters, for example, will not own stocks or bonds. These reporters don’t want it to appear that their financial stories might be influenced by some sort of self-interest. I must say, I respect these reporters’ integrity. And when I read their stories, I trust them. But, on the other hand, I can’t see how anybody can ever be totally unbiased. A blog post might provide a hint about what’s going on inside a reporter’s brain. And it might serve as a sort of self-disclosure statement. A problem, as Anon Guy points out, is that the folks who read a certain newspaper are often not the same folks who read a specific blog. So blogs my not provide the full disclosure that some might desire. Hmmmm … — Larry D.

By LarryD, at 12:05 PM

I’m trying to think through the issues presented by this dilemma. Is it a problem that a political reporter has a blog that allows investigative readers to discern his personal preferences? Would it be better if he didn’t have a blog so we wouldn’t know his views? Or, is the problem that not enough readers have access to the blog to be able to filter his point of view, as some posters implied? If that is the case, then disclosure in the paper would help solve that problem. Or is it a problem that the newspaper is employing someone who is a political activist in the off hours while working a day job that requires full and balanced consideration of all political points of view? News reporters are expected to be balanced and fair in covering issues. Is Darby’s reporting in the Sparks Tribune balanced? Fair? Does he provide readers with a full account of the various political stories he covers? Would a range of readers with different perspectives agree that his stories are illuminating and useful to the community? If not, then the problem isn’t whether he is publishing a blog, but how he is doing his day job. Perhaps the concern is that a hidden agenda is distorting the balanced perspective we expect to find in most newspapers. The blog doesn’t seem to be the most relevant issue in this question. The blog simply publicizes what the reporter is already thinking and doing. Do the readers think his reporting is sound? Does his editor? If not, that should be the issue. If his reporting does hold up, then the blog doesn’t seem to be a problem. Or…is the issue one of perception as opposed to reality? Perhaps we are in such a state of partisan division that we need to maintain a facade of objectivity to have any hope of maintaining credibility. We can’t accept even the appearance of partisanship on the part of anyone who wants to report news. On the third hand, perhaps this facade is what drives the public away from our work. They don’t want partisans parading as independent minded thinkers and they don’t believe that it is possible for anyone not to have private passions. A catch-22?

By Donica, at 4:25 PM

I’m still thinking about Rosemary’s comment: “Let’s say for example that – at the least – all journalists should preface every article with a statement of political and religious beliefs. That might be a start.” Perhaps a return to the partisan press–where one knows what a publication stands for–is a solution. The media universe will neatly divide into Nevada Blue and the Pack Patriot with their predictable partisan content.
I find it reassuring to know that The Economist is more likely to write articles praising welfare reform and that the NY Times might show the human face of a woman who’s struggling because she can’t find a steady job and her benefits were cut off. But still I read both publications. For most people, I suspect press partisanship aids the selective media exposure habits of the shallow minded, a problem that’s already dividing the planet. The success of democracy depends on some shared set of knowledge or fact set–a story we have in common, something we can all agree on. That said, at the paper for which I write a column, we wear our politics on our sleeves deliberately. To say, “This is who I am and this is how I see things,” feels far more honest than to try and give a story balance by quoting the specious facts and misconstrued allegations of the “other side.” (My own facts never being specious or misconstrued, of course …) A fair-minded reporter may never be tempted to make those arcane choices (leads, quotes, sources) that push one agenda over another. But the he-said, she-said structure of “objective” news stories, coupled with overworked underpaid reporters, can make for an awful lot of misinformation in the media. About a year ago, I interviewed Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, for a story on intelligent design. Her comments on the movement to “balance” evolution with its “alternatives” in an educational setting were applicable, I think, to the objective journalism debate. Scott explained: “Ask the average person on the street, ‘Should we be teaching strengths and weaknesses of evolution?’ They’re going to say sure. Ask them, ‘Should we teach the strengths and weaknesses of heliocentrism?’ And they’ll say sure.” But ask a scientist about the “strengths and weaknesses of heliocentrism”–the theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun–and you’ll get a blank stare. There aren’t any alternatives to the Earth going around the Sun. Ask a biologist about the strengths and weaknesses of evolution, and you’ll get that same blank look.” My conclusion is, as always, that we need to start teaching media literacy in kindergarten if not sooner. If a kid is old enough to sing along with The Little Mermaid, she needs to know a bit about Disney Co. Today, kids, we’re going to talk about vertical integration…

By Deidre, at 5:50 PM

I received an email from the editor of the Sparks Tribune saying as of Monday blogs by staff are banned. Darby’s site went dark that afternoon. There was no comment regarding why or what Tribune standards or codes had been violated (if any). From the tone of the email, I got the distinct feeling she thought it was simply some blog war and not an ethics issue.

By The Anon Guy, at 6:12 PM

Code of Ethics
What’s our purpose?
I had the privilege of sitting around a room and discussing journalism with a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist today. It occurred to me at one point, and this is not the first time this has happened, that he didn’t understand blogging. But, to be fair, I’m not sure I do, either.
I see blogging as something I do to reflect. Sometimes I research, sometimes I react, and sometimes (awfully infrequently) I report. A clear, concise definition really doesn’t exist for the term “blogging.” (concise is a very key word here) The reporter wanted to make the case that bloggers sit around and comment on news with their opinions and really don’t do what he does. His exact words were, “Show me.”
And for the most part, he’s right. As it stands, bloggers do little reporting, and a lot of commentary. So my question to all of the readers here is this. What is blogging for? I want to gather up a solid idea of what blogging is, based upon your responses. You can tell me why you do it, why you read them, if I’m right in my assessment of myself, etc. I’ll take good principles out of the comments I get (or emails, if you want to contact me that way) and form a definition that I will use to guide myself from here forward.
a better model emerges, I’ll use it, but until then, I want this to have a purpose and I want to follow that purpose to attempt to do good work here. Help me.
– posted by Ryan Jerz on 08/16/2006 06:46 PM

Comments
Laura, Aug 17, 08:42 AM #:
I think that I blog for two reasons mainly. One is to write. I like to write, and this provides an outlet where I can do it every day in a semi-creative way. It gives my inner personal voice (as opposed to my professional voice, which I write with all day) a forum. Second, I like to “meet” new people online and interact in this way that we all understand. I like the intimate readership that I, and most blogs I read, cultivate and enjoy. I like that I can update my friends and perhaps engage new ones based on common ground that we may not have otherwise found.

myrna the minx, Aug 17, 09:42 AM #:
part performance, part entertainment, part commentary, part cultural criticism, part community activist, part journal (personal fulfillment), part community building (I wish this part were bigger but almost no one will take me up on it). However, there are many very serious blogs out there that do report and report well. David Neiwert is an exceptional example of this.

mrjerz, Aug 17, 04:08 PM #:
Myrna, my only problem with that is it’s not very clear. That’s a whole lot of stuff. And maybe that’s just how it is. Blogging might just be a jumbled mess that means a lot of things to a lot of people. But I want my own definition that is a guideline for my writing from here on out. So I’ll cherrypick from you, if you don’t mind.
Laura, you are basically saying that you do it because you want an outlet and you want to immerse yourself in a certain community while you are online. That’s actually pretty interesting. Community is definitely something that can be brought into this. But to what extent? I don’t know yet.
Have I gotten weird enough for all of you yet? If so, or if not, keep the responses coming.

myrna the minx, Aug 18, 08:37 AM #:
Those are all the reasons I blog though, clear or not 😉

Laura, Aug 18, 02:49 PM #:
Yes, although not so much an outlet for my thoughts/feelings but an outlet for writing. I don’t like to get too personal.

Eric, Aug 18, 03:11 PM #:
Well, I just started blogging, and it is interesting that you ask this question, because in my first blog, I attempted to write something that somewhat explains why I decided to start (it can be found at: http://elvideo.blogspot.com/2006/08/blogging-bandwagon.html) After re-reading it and putting your question into perspective, I see it as a way for people who often have things in common to communicate with each other, and not in a “MySpace” type of way. I know that MySpace has blogging, but that seems to me to be more of a social outlet. I don’t plan on blogging for social reasons. Yes, I am assuming that most of my readers are friends or acquaintances, but as a rule of thumb in real life, with real, face to face interactions, we chose people with similar ideals to be friends with. I see blogging as a way to expand one’s thoughts and allow others to agree or disagree with them. W It is almost an online version of AM radio. For example, during his hey-day, Rush was loved and equally loathed by millions for his ideas. I see blogging as a similar outlet, but with an opportunity to be seen and heard by anyone, as often as they wish, and at their own convenience.
Also, it is reaffirming to know that someone is out there listening (reading) to your thoughts. I wonder how many people would continue to blog if they didn’t get any feedback? (So please, everyone give me feedback!)

mrjerz, Aug 18, 05:35 PM #:
Laura, I’ve always looked at you as a “personal” blogger. It’s kind of why I read your site. I want to read blogs of people talking about their lives who have something in common with me, like where we live.
Eric, it’s funny you should say that. While you were commenting, I was writing about fame. That’s why I did it before, but I’m not so sure now. When people start knowing more about you through your blog, it gets a bit weird. I still like that I’m getting more known, but wait until someone talks to you about it.

John Dewey and Journalism

John Dewey (October 20, 1859 – June 1, 1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, whose thoughts and ideas have been greatly influential in the United States and around the world. He, along with Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, is recognized as one of the founders of the philosophical school of Pragmatism. He is also known as the father of functional psychology; he was a leading representative of the progressive movement in U.S. education during the first half of the 20th century.

Since the mid-1990s, Deweyan ideas have experienced revival as they are a major source of inspiration for the public journalism movement. His definition of “public,” as described in The Public and Its Problems, has profound implications for the significance of journalism in society. As suggested by the title of the book, Dewey’s concern was of the transactional relationship between publics and problems. Also implicit in its name, public journalism seeks to orient communication away from elite, corporate hegemony toward a civic public sphere. “The ‘public’ of public journalists is Dewey’s public.”[6]

Dewey gives a concrete definition to the formation of a public. Publics are spontaneous groups of citizens who share the indirect effects of a particular action. Anyone affected by the indirect consequences of a specific action will automatically share a common interest in controlling those consequences, i.e., solving a common problem.[7] Since every action generates unintended consequences, publics continuously emerge, overlap, and disintegrate.

But in the era of mass media, Dewey exposes two conundrums:

The modern dispersal of information is so rapid and universal as to grossly amplify the extent of the indirect consequences. Modern publics increasingly form in response to mass-mediated information about very distant, impersonal actions, as opposed to familiar community-based issues. How can such vast, loosely-bonded publics agree to make a coherent response to the very problems that define them?

For Dewey, public knowledge, a prerequisite for democracy, can only come from direct participation in action. But the mass-mediated public is too large and scattered to coordinate a mass-response. Since such a public is unable to interact and identify problems as local phenomena, they instead react as a mass to second-hand news. Can a mass-mediated public engage in social progress?

These are the central themes of public journalism. It is no coincidence that public journalism’s resistance to the mass-mediation of information borrows heavily from The Public and Its Problems, as that was likewise written in response to the views of Walter Lippmann (see below). Indeed, Walter Lippmann played a central role in both the corporatization of journalism and the mass-mediation of the government as a very prominent journalist and as an advisor to the President of the United States. Dewey saw his views as incompatible with democratic ideals.

In The Public and Its Problems, John Dewey presents a rebuttal to Walter Lippmann’s treatise on the role of journalism in democracy. Lippmann’s model was a basic transmission model in which journalists took information given them by experts and elites, repackaged that information in simple terms, and transmitted the information to the public, whose role was to react emotionally to the news. In his model, Lippmann supposed that the public was incapable of thought or action, and that all thought and action should be left to the experts and elites.

Dewey refutes this model by assuming that politics is the work and duty of each individual in the course of his daily routine. The knowledge needed to be involved in politics, in this model, was to be generated by the interaction of citizens, elites, experts, through the mediation and facilitation of journalism. In this model, not just the government is held accountable, but the citizens, experts, other actors as well.

Dewey also revisioned journalism to fit this model by taking the focus from actions or happenings and changing the structure to focus on choices, consequences, and conditions, in order to foster conversation and improve the generation of knowledge in the community. Journalism would not just produce a static product that told of what had already happened, but the news would be in a constant state of evolution as the community added value by generating knowledge. The audience would disappear, to be replaced by citizens and collaborators who would essentially be users, doing more with the news than simply reading it.

Dewey’s journalism was revolutionary because it changed the structure from choosing a winner of a given situation to posing alternatives and exploring consequences. His effort to change journalism, involve citizens, stimulation, was all under the auspices of creating the Great Community he wrote of in The Public and Its Problems: “Till the Great Society is converted in to a Great Community, the Public will remain in eclipse. Communication can alone create a great community” (Dewey, pg. 144).

Dewey believed that communication creates a great community, and citizens who actively participate in public life contribute to that community. “The clear consciousness of a communal life, in all its implications, constitutes the idea of democracy (The Public and its Problems, p. 149).” This Great Community can only occur with “free and full intercommunication (p. 211).” Communication can be understood as journalism – the traditional forum in which people communicate.

Through participating in public life, people find each other and create the Public. When the public interacts with officials and government, then an effective State is formed. Dewey believed people should experiment with their actions. Therefore, since action, knowledge and inquiry were always changing, the State must always be redefined. In this way, the public and officials constantly work to create and define the state.

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After Further Review

It’s a real pain in the ass to be disrespected by people who don’t really know me. Last night I got an email from an Internet news-style service I had written for. They basically fired me as a writer and I don’t rightly know why.

In the email, it said “After further review…,” which implied they never looked at my writing in the first place, I wasn’t working to their standards. I wonder what standards those could be.

It went further to – say that my work was substandard because I was not being balanced. As I recall, the first story I filed with them was a straight news story, looking at all sides of the issue.

The folks at this service sent it back saying it was “too much like a standard news article .” They refused to publish it until I formed a more controversial point of view.

So I re-wrote the story with a conservative slant. They posted it on their site and I thought I had the task settled.

Unfortunately, I must have missed something that was written between the lines. All my articles were scrubbed from their website yesterday and I was canned.

I’m now free to send them else where.