By Steve Outing
Fascinating story from NY Times today: “For New Journalists, All Bets, but Not Mikes, Are Off.” The short version is that a “citizen journalist” working for Huffington Post’s Off The Bus was talking to Bill Clinton at a campaign rally, and the ex-prez blurted out some unsavory words thinking that he was just talking to an ordinary person, and not expecting his comments to be recorded and broadcast out to the world.
The Times piece has much navel gazing, including journalists bemoaning the “bad form” of a non-professional journalist in “breaking the rules” that reporters have for so long operated under by recording Clinton with a digital recorder without his knowledge. (Though he was in a public place at a public event, so he should have known better.)
Get over it, journalists! In a world where any and everybody can publish what they hear or experience (or record with a camera phone), lots of people are not going to follow old “rules” that they don’t understand or even know about. Bemoaning bad behavior by ordinary folks suddenly thrust into the role of “citizen journalist” shows lack of understanding of what’s happening here.
Politicians, especially, have got to understand that in this new broadband world of ours, everything that they say to anyone is potentially on the record. They can’t know if the person they’re chatting with informally at a campaign event has a blog that will get used to share off-the-cuff remarks, or if they’ll post to Twitter and the politician’s remarks get amplified from there.
Traditionalists in politics and the media can bemoan this “unseemly” situation, but it does nothing to change the reality. Everyone in the public eye needs to be more careful about the words they utter all the time, now that everyone else in the room has a digital megaphone.