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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Paying for it

This chart offers an interesting look at the amounts paid to various bloggers by various political campaigns. I do not object to this practice when the writers make full disclosure. If Lowell Feld got a few thou for saying nice words about Jim Webb and Jan Henke got a bit less for braying the virtues of George Allen -- well, fine.

One item on that chart surprised me: The $850 a month Aaron Silverstein of Heading Left received for pushing Bill Winter of Colorado. The surprise stems from the fact that, to judge from the standard traffic ranking measures, Heading Left receives fewer readers than does this humble blog. And -- aside from the glorious day when Russ Feingold paid for my soup -- politicians and candidates have never offered me a thing. They haven't even tossed my dog a Wendy's chicken nugget. (She likes those. Hint.)

Then again, given my weakness for the outré, the day may come when a candidate offers me cash to endorse an opponent.

I did once get a couple of hefty contributions from a goddess of a reader. The bandwidth-clogging free ads on the right-hand side of this page are for causes deemed worthy. The Google ads on the left fetch the equivalent of a free meal at El Torito once a month. (Try the flautas.)

Do you think that the practice of pols paying bloggers could turn into an effective right-wing talking point? Might the entire blogging medium suffer disrepute?
Hi ya Joe -- It definitely would represent a tremendous undermining threat to bloggerdom if accepting subsidies or "honorariums" were to become commonplace among news/political commentary web mavericks. In fact, even if the practice of greasing bloggers never catches on (god willing), just the suspicion that such quid-pro-quo payments are occurring will cause major damage anyway should it become firmly lodged in the national imagination. As it stands, the mainstream news industry is hopelessly enveloped in a miasma of kickbacks and conflicts of interest. Large segments of the public understand this and have turned to the web seeking outspoken sources for information and opinions that haven't been bought and sold. I'd be shocked if the enemies of the blogosphere, aren't at work right now quietly investing serious effort (and dough) in diligently propagating the meme that news/commentary bloggers are all suspect because some are selling themselves. payoffs. -- Pax vobiscum baby
The practice stinks, with or without disclosure. Whether bloggers are regarded as journalists, pundits or obsessives, taking money from pols is prostitution, pure and simple -- not to mention wholly antithetical to the purpose of blogging.

One hopes readers will turn away from these whores.
Yeah. The thought of reading a blog that has been paid for by a politician...blech.
I think it's ok if they say so up front. Then you have choice.

Miss P.
At first I was "shocked and appalled" by these revelations, but then my adult side took over and I realized that bloggers are entitled to share in the business of politics too. I mean, why bother to express yourself in this democracy if you don't get paid for it?
For god's sake, Joe, the chart and the very misleading op-ed have already been discussed in the blogosphere ad nauseam. And it's not only that you're a bit late to jump on the bus, it seems you haven't followed the discussion very closely. The main point isn't if bloggers worked for campaigns, it's if there has been any kind of conflict of interest and missing disclosure. In the overwhelming majority of examples cited, there hasn't been.

Most, if not all, bloggers didn't get money for undercover stomping, they worked as advisors and staffers. And they didn't make a secret of it. Bloggers like Jerome have been absolutely transparent when joining the staff of politicians and stooped posting at their blogs to avoid any impression of irregularity. And Glover knows that, as can be proven by his own admissions on his blog. Yet you seem to totally fall for his sleazy argumentation. Is envy driving you?
To avoid misunderstandings, let me list the points why I think this isn't a good story, Joe:

- You say you don't object when there is full disclosure. You should have mentioned that it's established there has been full disclosure by liberal bloggers and that the op-ed avoided mentioning that, leaving a sleazy impression of Jerome and the others.

- Your phrase "got a few thou for saying nice words" is as bad as Glover's wordings. Bloggwers didn't get paid for undercover stomping (useless, since they already said nice works without being hired by the pols), they worked as staffers and advisors!

- You chose to single out Aaron Silverstein of Heading Left, because of the money, as you say it, he "received for pushing Bill Winter of Colorado." You even linked to his blog. Didn't you follow through the links and read his statement that he worked as an advisor for Bill Winter? He didn't get paid for stomping, in fact, he was already pro-Winter before, which isn't surprising, since a politicians certasinly won't hire someone who is indifferent or even hostile.

- And then you have the nerve to ask: "Do you think that the practice of pols paying bloggers could turn into an effective right-wing talking point?" Well, if this becomes ammunition for the wingnuts, it will be because of bloggers like you, who don't care to correct the distorted picture presented by this smear piece of an op-ed.
Gray, you're being silly. My tone was lighthearted, not particularly judgmental, and certainly not condemnatory. Everyone except you seems to have divined that much from the text.

Believe it or not, I got scored privately for saying that I had no problem with paying bloggers (for whatever services they renedered) if full disclosure existed. As I recall, there was some grumbling that disclosure came out rather reluctantly in a few cases.

I mentioned Silverstein because I rather fancied the idea of candidates paying some attention to bloggers who don't have top tier sites, in terms of readership.

The question "Do you think that the practice of pols paying bloggers could turn into an effective right-wing talking point?" is perfectly legit. The question does not speak to the ethics of the situation one way or the other. I'm simply asking the readers to offer their predictions as to how the right will make use of this info.

To be honest, I decided to write this piece only when the line about being paid to endorse an opponent popped into my noggin. I thought it was funny.
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