We Have Taken The “TAO Of Journalism” Pledge
This week, our decision to “take the pledge” to the TAO of Journalism came to fruition, and we’d like our Readers to know about it.
The “TAO of Journalism” is, quite simply, a “promise to your audience that you will be Transparent about who you are, Accountable for your mistakes, and Open to other points of view.”
Here’s how this concept originated:
At a Journalism That Matters conference in Washington, D.C., in 2008, John Hamer of the Washington News Council was thinking about how journalists demand that everyone they cover be transparent, accountable and open — but what about journalists themselves? Isn’t it a two-way street? He realized those three words spelled “TAO” and proposed a breakout session on the “TAO of Journalism.” About two dozen conference attendees showed up to discuss the idea and help refine it.
In 2009, at another Journalism That Matters gathering at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, Hamer floated the idea again and convened another breakout session. Several attendees came and talked it over — including Tom Stites of The Banyan Project, who encouraged Hamer to pursue it.
At a third Journalism That Matters event at the University of Washington in Seattle in January 2010 (Editor’s Note: this is where we first met John and learned of this concept), the “TAO of Journalism” was informally launched. Several attendees took the “TAO pledge” and/or bought T-shirts displaying a TAO logo. Others signed up at a Society of Professional Journalists convention in Seattle in April 2010.
We have been transparent in our web traffic/statistics reporting since July 2009 (read about that here), and now we will do our best to be transparent in other areas, especially those pertaining to our journalistic ethics.
We now proudly publish the pledge we took for not only The B-Town Blog, but for our five sister blogs as well:
We will fully disclose who we are, our journalistic mission and our guiding principles. We will post information on our background and expertise, including education and experience. We will list advertisers, donors, grants, and any other payments that support our work. If affiliated with a political party or special-interest group, we will disclose that. If lobbying for any particular legislation or regulation, we will disclose that. If we are being paid to promote a product or cause, we will disclose that. If other factors could be seen as potential conflicts of interest, we will disclose them. (NOTE: The principle of transparency does not apply to confidential sources, who may still be protected.)
If we get any facts wrong, we will admit that promptly and publicly. We will post/publish/print/podcast/broadcast a correction or at least a clarification. We will fully explain what happened to cause the error or mistake. We will do a follow-up story if that is appropriate, putting the original material in better context. We will apologize and promise to be more careful next time. We will show a little humility.
If there are credible challenges to our point of view or simply differences of opinion, we will be open to contrary positions. We will give the other side(s) opportunity and space to express their views and engage in open public dialogue through comments or other means. If we are primarily engaged in opinion and commentary, rather than news reporting, we will make that clear – while inviting others to express their opinions through comment and feedback means.
We do not necessarily agree to abide by any particular code of journalism ethics or professional standards, although we may choose to do so. If we do, we will declare that publicly. If we don’t, we will declare that as well. We understand that this will not be enforced by any outside organized group. It will be overseen by everyone on the Internet who wants to see high standards of transparency, accountability and openness in journalism – through whatever media platform.
We understand that if someone using the “TAO Seal” starts violating its basic principles, they will be admonished, criticized, reprimanded and embarrassed in public through the awesome power of the Internet. Call it “crowdsourcing” ethics and accuracy. In summary, we believe that Transparency, Accountability and Openness are keys to our personal credibility and public trust.
So…what the heck does this mean to our Readers?
- It means that you can rest assured that if we have a bias or agenda, we’ll do our best to openly disclose it (see an example from April here, when Editor Scott Schaefer revealed his own union bias in a story about the Teamsters vs. Waste Management).
- If we make a mistake, we’ll do our best to correct it.
- And, as we’ve showed in the past by allowing anonymous Comments, we’ll continue to allow contrary points of view, as long as they’re not libelous, or contain naughty words.