Over the weekend, I watched in fascination as an anonymous blogger at Daily Kos traced the potentially explosive allegations that McCain’s vice presidential pick Sarah Palin may have faked her most recent pregnancy to cover up for the fact that it was daughter who was pregnant. It looks like that’s not true, and as everyone knows now, the McCain campaign announced on Monday that her daughter, Bristol, 17, is five months pregnant.
Still, this all left me wondering how the folks behind Daily Kos handled these postings. If Daily Kos is one model for the newsroom of the future, how do they balance the freewheeling nature of a group blog with the need to maintain their reputation? What are the ethics behind this?
On Tuesday, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz posted an interview with Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas. Kurtz writes:
When Markos Moulitsas saw that one of the contributors to his liberal blog was accusing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin of lying about her 4-month-old baby, he was a bit skeptical.
“I feel a little weird about the questions being asked,” he says. “But I also feel a little weird about saying, ‘Shut up, people.’ It takes a lot for me to step in and squash what’s on Daily Kos.”
In less than 48 hours, the allegations by a Kos diarist known as ArcXIX ricocheted into the mainstream media, when John McCain’s designated running mate announced Monday that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant and plans to have the baby and marry the father.
But it appears by Tuesday, Moulitsas and the Daily Kos community had a change of heart. All entries related to “babygate” had been taken down.
I’ve sent a note to Moulitsas in the hopes he’ll chat about all this. We’ll see. But Steve Outing had an interesting post related to the tricky ethics for traditional news outlets faced in deciding whether to cover it:
What should mainstream news organizations do with this? I think they have a responsibility to investigate it and discover the truth, and report it, whichever way this turns out. (If Palin were lying about this, it should disqualify her from holding the VP’s office, at least to my mind.)