Tom Grubisich, a former Washington Post reporter and editor, writes about grass-roots journalism for Online Journalism Review. His e-mail address is TomEditor@msn.com. Tom Grubisich is threatened by pseudonymity on the net, and thinks it is time for another weblogger ethics panel:
Tom Grubisich - Sunshine for the Virtual Town Hall - washingtonpost.com: These days we want "transparency" in all institutions, even private ones. There's one massive exception -- the Internet. It is, we are told, a giant town hall.... [M]ost of them are wearing the equivalent of paper bags over their heads. We know them only by their Internet "handles" -- gotalife, runningwithscissors, stoptheplanet and myriad other inventive names. Imagine going to a meeting about school overcrowding in your community. Everybody at the meeting is wearing nametags. You approach a cluster of people where one man is loudly complaining about waste in school spending. "Get rid of the bureaucrats, and then you'll have money to expand the school," he says, shaking his finger at the surrounding faces.
You notice his nametag -- "anticrat424." Between his sentences, you interject, "Excuse me, who are you?" He gives you a narrowing look. "Taking names, huh? Going to sic the superintendent's police on me? Hah!" In any community in America, if Mr. anticrat424 refused to identify himself, he would be ignored and frozen out of the civic problem-solving process. But on the Internet, Mr. anticrat424 is continually elevated to the podium, where he can have his angriest thoughts amplified through cyberspace as often as he wishes. He can call people the vilest names and that hate-mongering, too, will be amplified for all the world to see.... [Websites] are unwitting enablers [of hatemongers].... [U]ser IDs can be real names or fictional Internet handles... Mr. anticrat424 could still find a well-amplified podium.... If Web sites required posters to use their real names, while giving the shield of pseudonymity when it's merited, spirited online debate would continue unimpeded. It might even be enhanced by attracting contributors who are turned off today by name calling and worse. Except for the hate-mongers, who wouldn't want that?
In short, Tom Grubisich says that it is time for another weblogger ethics panel.
For some reason, there are other issues that I think are more central and important:
On February 8, 2005, I opened my virtual Washington Post to find Post reporters Jonathan Weisman and Ben White writing that a series of calculations made by me, Dean Baker, and Paul Krugman were "absurd... they ignore global economic growth and investment in countries unaffected by the demographic slowdown," according to people whom Jonathan Weisman and Ben White described as "White House economists."
The interesting thing is that every economist who had an office in the White House on February 8, 2005 has denied that they did or would characterize Dean's, Paul's, and my arguments as "absurd"--wrong, maybe (I don't think they are), but not absurd. Jonathan Weisman and Ben White are takign these people--let's call them AntiEconomists424--and they are elevating them to a podium, where they can have their angry thoughts amplified through cyberspace and print space as often as they wish, amplified for all the world to see. Grubisich says that "In any community in America, if Mr. anticrat424 refused to identify himself, he would be ignored and frozen out of the civic problem-solving process." Well, the AntiEconomists424 refused to identify themselves, but the Washington Post gave them a podium and a megaphone. Moreover, White and Weisman hook up a huge amount of additional juice to AntiEconomists424's amplifier: They tell us that AntiEconomists424 are important people! They work for the White House! Never mind that they are too ashamed of what they are saying to take the professional hit that would be involved if they were to reveal their identity--that's not something that Weisman and White focus on.
But for some reason Grubisich doesn't want to talk about the misbehavior of thug-enabling-reporters like Weisman and White, does he.