Taking interest in my conflicts

On Davos Newbies, Danny Ayers asks whether my criticism of Ben Hammersley is also a conflict of interest:

Didn't he recently write a book on Userland software? His conflict of interest would be declared where exactly?

As a former newspaper journalist with inflated self-regard for my professional ethics, I love this question.

Though my book career's no secret, I don't think anyone expects a personal weblog to be free of professional and personal entanglements. One of the best things about this medium is the strong subjective voice of its authors. I would compare this weblog to a newspaper column, where you expect commentary colored by opinion, rather than a news article that strives for objectivity and fairness.

That's the big problem with Hammersley's piece; it's fundamentally dishonest to present his coverage of RSS as a straight news story when he's strongly involved in syndication format development. If it was presented as opinion, there'd be no ethical considerations.

Comments

Ok, I take your point about blogs being intentionally subjective, but I think it's a little extreme describing a piece like Ben's as "fundamentally dishonest".

The assumption of purely objective journalism is questionable at the best of times. I think it's safest to accept that any article will carry prejudices of the author. In the context of something like RSS which goes wide and deep, anyone with sufficient knowledge of the topic would have to have had some level of direct involvement.

Maybe Ben's piece was coloured by opinion, but I don't think it was unfair - there were lengthy quotes from Dave after all.

The article is unfair to the readers. They deserve to know that he's a participant in the fight over RSS, not a disinterested reporter attempting to objectively report the dispute. Even if it was flowery in praise for RSS 2.0 and I agreed with every word in the article, I'd have a problem with the lack of disclosure about his co-authorship of RSS 1.0.

Sorry, this was where I was aiming my last comment, re. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/02/weekinreview/02harm.html

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