MSNBC recently posted this article that lists journalists at news organizations from throughout the country who gave money to campaigning politicians and groups. For those of you who haven't been to J-school, professors, advisers and deans are generally pretty clear about how we should handle campaign donations: Don't do it.
It's kind of funny, because we journalists (and particularly reporters, it seems) pride ourselves on being bastions of free speech. But our mentors and peers tell us to curtail that speech, at least in the way of dollar signs. And we all know money talks, so that should definitely be considered speech.
A lot of us also are discouraged from taking political sides even in conversation. We're told not to put stickers or buttons with political slogans on our desks or backpacks. When I was working at The Daily Reveille, the LSU student paper, we had rules that no one who worked in the production and editorial sections of the paper could wear any paraphernalia from student government elections. The consequences of doing so: a reprimand at least, if not termination.
I admit it is a bit unfortunate that this is the way our industry is. It's restricting freedom. But perception equals reality for a lot of people. We may be able to gather facts and quotations from people who are on the opposite end of the political spectrum from us, but donating money denotes activism to many. That makes us hard to trust.
We want your trust. We don't want to seem shady.
Now, Chris Daly raises some excellent points about the report on his blog. MSNBC's Bill Dedman says there are about 100,000 journalists in the country and only lists 144 who gave money. So that means most of us don't, and that should be pointed out.
Definitely check out the list. Just for full disclosure, there are several Gannett papers on the list.
What do you say?