Collaborations of Abstraction

Proud to be an American “journalist?”

Posted on: October 20, 2009

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

–Amendment I of the United States Constitution

In the past week or so I have been faced with two different, but equally interesting, situations concerning the First Amendment. The first concerns bloggers, which of course got my attention.

Independent bloggers who fail to disclose paid reviews or freebies can face up to $11,000 in fines from the Federal Trade Commission, according to revisions to the agency’s “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

(If you’re interested, the revisions are here: http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

As a journalist, I tend to agree with this. Any advertising in print has to be marked as such. Most print journalists are encouraged not to accept freebies. In general, journalism tends to be a community service; most get paid far less than waiters and waitresses.

In my personal blogging life, I am not getting paid or getting freebies. But at some point or another, I will get paid to blog at work. So this concerns me a little bit on a personal level. What will I have to disclose? Does it matter that I work for an organization but blog on my own time?

I got out of journalism so I didn’t have to be so “objective.” At one of the dailies where I worked, some journalists were suspended from work for going to a MoveOn.org concert on their own time. Could this happen to bloggers if they don’t expose their own personal bias? Sometimes I wonder if the rules of a free market should not apply to blogging: Buyer Beware.

This leads me to another, perhaps more disturbing, thing I read this afternoon. Apparently the White House staff has decided to treat Fox News as an opponent. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a proponent of Fox News by any means. Nor am I a proponent for most TV news organizations. However, the First Amendment does allow for the freedom of speech. And speaking out against an entire news organization in an official manner seems to contradict that.

(Here’s what I read this morning http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/10/the-obama-war-against-fox-news-smart-politics-or-risky-business.html)

I’m sure that this has happened before. But it’s not the government’s business to tell any media outlet what its content is or what it should be. It’s been awhile since I’ve brushed up on my First Amendment law, but I’m pretty sure unless it constitutes a clear and present danger, that it should be OK to speak, air or print.

But that’s just my opinion. And it’s my right to say it. Bless it!

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2 Responses to "Proud to be an American “journalist?”"

Since when does the administration get to decide what is news and what isn’t? Thanks so much for sharing your opinion, White House, but I think I’m smart enough to discern what’s “Fair and Balanced” all by myself.

Fox is the only “news” channel my dad watched religiously for years. They’re certainly not without bias, but they do have a huge conservative audience. What is the White House going to do? Refuse to grant interviews with Fox? I don’t think so. They’re not going to shoot themselves in the foot. I would be very surprised if the administration went beyond expressing its distaste. Then I’ll really start to worry.

Agreed 100% Jen. To be honest, it makes me more than a little nervous. And most people I know are totally stoked because they hate Fox News, but I gotta say–it’s a step in the wrong direction for our First Amendment rights.

(P.S. You can SO tell we’re journalists LOL!)

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Collaborations of Abstraction

Two close (though, unfortunately, not in proximity) friends – a Welsh man living in Ireland and a Minnesotan woman living in Germany – come together to share musings, wit and random things of interest in this journey called life

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