To Mike Miner:
Your “Open Mouth Policy” piece was not fair, because you ignored key points that were made in my remarks to you and in my E-mail to Romenesko. In offering confidentiality, I see a difference between a caller who is personally involved in an ethics case and one who calls to chat. You knew that but left it out. Even critics have an obligation to allow the one you are criticizing to state his case. And if you believe, as you told me, that ethics cases are private and not necessarily newsworthy, why do you write about them and contradict yourself?
Michael Miner replies:
In his reply to Jim Romenesko, which can be found in its entirety at Romenesko’s Web site (www.poynter.org/medianews/), Bukro said this: “The AdviceLine does have a confidentiality policy. It is given to those who request it or require it, but I have resisted a blanket confidentiality policy. Why give confidentiality to somebody who calls and says, ‘Hey, I’d like to know what you think about this’? It’s good, healthy discussion from which other journalists can learn.” Bukro maintained this distinction in a later conversation with me.
When I wrote last week, I focused on and objected to the last paragraph of Bukro’s note to Romenesko. In this summation, Bukro declared that he didn’t want the AdviceLine “to become an enterprise dealing in secrets….Let’s keep it out in the open where it belongs….The undercover stuff is from another era when we thought journalism was a game. We’ll give confidentiality to anyone who asks for it, but it should be for a good reason.” Here Bukro seems to be saying that the burden is on the caller to request anonymity, that the caller who doesn’t request it doesn’t require it, and that when a caller’s reason for anonymity doesn’t pass muster–if it’s just old-fashioned “undercover stuff”–it might not be granted.
In my original column on the new ethics AdviceLine, which ran March 9 and was picked up by Medianews, I’d gone into considerable detail about the line’s first half dozen calls. Too much detail for three readers, who wrote Romenesko to accuse my AdviceLine sources (Bukro, who first conceived of the line, was one) of being indiscreet. Thanks to Bukro’s openness, I was able to write a story that conveyed the nature of the AdviceLine by looking at the calls that were coming in and how they were being handled. I think it was the story Bukro wanted me to write. Now it bothers him that after taking advantage of his openness I seem to believe his critics have a point. But they do–their point being simply that any caller deserves to know what the rules are.