Hitchhiker-gate

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"One person I talked to said, "When it sells 20,000 copies we'll finally be rid of Douglas Adams." That may be a little cynical. However, let's look at the alternatives.One person I talked to said, "When it sells 20,000 copies we'll finally be rid of Douglas Adams." That may be a little cynical. However, let's look at the alternatives."

Baio

okay, first of all, I am pretty sure that trying to get rid of the author of the storyline would not be something anyone would like to admit or be proud of. So let's examine the ethical questions Dr Jerz posted on his blog:

1. Can a blogger be a journalist?  Is this particular blogger a journalist? Who decides?

I don't think that he is a journalist. I have been taught that a journalist must always have permission from his sources to publish what they said. Otherwise, the writer can be sued. The first ammendment does not protect you from lawsuits; it just protects your right to free speech, not the reprocussions. A journalist must decide whether it is worthwhile to publish information that may get him to trouble. I'm anxious to find out of the writers of those emails have discovered Baio's little discovery.

How important was the information on the disk anyway? To be, it would be like someone discovering an 8th Harry Potter book. Sure, its interesting, but I can certainly live without it. The secret tapes in Watergate were a whole lot more important than a disk containing unreleased information about a game. What if Baio gets sued? Was it really worth it? He must care a lot about interactive fiction games....

Is it journalism if it relies wholly on archival material?

No. He didn't do any work or reporting. Someone handed him the material. That didn't mean he had to publish it. Is the world really a better place now that Baio released the secret emails? It would have been journalism if Baio would have then questioned the people involved. i don't really think that this counts as investigative reporting. I also met Mika' husband at the funeral last July. He helped break the story about the soldier abuse in Iraq. That was investigative journalism.

Is it reliable journalism if it depends on anonymous sources (in this case, the unnamed source who provided the author with the Infocom archives)?


You have to use your judgement. Deep Throat turned out to provide the reporters with valuable information. But probably not everyone will be as truthful. For all the reader could know, the source could be fictional. That is why when US Magazine says, "A source told the magazine that Beyonce and Jay-Z....." is not good journalism. "Anonymous" source could also be a way for the reporter to insert his own opinion into the story, which is also against established journalistic rules.

Is it journalism there is no editorial oversight -- nobody to say "Woah, there, are you sure you should be publishing the full text of e-mails that were sent from one private individual to another?"

The editor is supposed to catch mistakes and information that could get the writer and rest of the staff in trouble. I've caught quotes that would not be allowed in the Setonian. The editor acts like a filter. In a paper, the editor has final say, but I don't really know about freelace authors...

Was the information pressing enough, or of sufficient news value, to justify a "publish first and ask questions later" attitude?

 NO. Not really. How much of an interest to people is this subject? They are probably not in the minority. How much is this information going to positively or negatively affect people's lives?

Is it journalism if the author offers to de-publish text that the original authors don't want published?

I don't really know if that would be an option. There is such a thing as a retraction, but someone can never be un-published. Someone, somewhere has probably already copied the document. De-publishing would not eliminate distribution of the material. I refer to my HS Chorus teacher's scandal. He unpublished the documents, but someone had already made a copy and distributed them to faculty and students, past and present. You can never be certain that somebody does not have a copy. Never publish anything you wouldn't want everyone to see.

What opportunity for insight and subtlety was lost when the author chose to publish without checking with the sources?

Clarification. Perhaps there is more to the story. Maybe all of the people mentioned in the emails made peace with each other. Baio has only "reported" part of the story. He has painted people as villians who may not be that at all.

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1 Comments

Rachel Prichard said:

the thing that casught my attention in Daniella's blog is the question of "is it journalism if depends on an anynonomous source?" It made me think of watergate and "deepthroat" and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein also. That was investigative journalism and some of the most important info was done anonymously. Many people use sources such as that for all kinds of stories. But I agree you must keep it in the context of news, important news. I think we would still be able to go on not knowing about the sequal to an interactive fiction game. It would still suck to be having the heads of a company mad at you though.

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