Full Disclosure About Full Disclosure in Blogs
Earlier this week, the Knight Digital Media Center penned a post on the full disclosure policy of All Things Digital.
Titled “Transparency for Journalists: AllThingsD Shows What It Can Look Like,” it’s a very nice review of what we do on the site.
“What I like about these statements is that they aren’t cookie-cutter corpspeak or legalese. They’re human–and even humorous–revelations,” wrote Amy Gahran. “Each writer gets to decide which topics she or he wants to cover, and how. This can get pretty personal, and that’s a good thing. “
We think so too at ATD, which is why you should check in with a whole new bunch of full disclosures we have posted recently, since adding a half-dozen new staffers.
You can click in from our About Us page to read a disclosure penned by each person on the site with editorial responsibilities.
It’s important to us to have them there, as we feel that being transparent and honest to readers is the first step in our commitment to fairness, accuracy and ethical standards.
The Knight story had some good advice at the bottom of its report for crafting a solid disclosure policy:
Publish your key disclosures in one place.
By publishing the ethics statements as static pages, they’re not only easier for readers to find–they’re easier for search engines to index and rank. Transparency is not just about disclosure, but about visibility (which in the online age entails findability). If you dole out disclosures in dribs and drabs, buried within specific articles or posts, you’re less likely to gain the visibility needed to make transparency effective.
Leave what to disclose up to the individual.
The most effective transparency statements are personal, not cookie-cutter. Don’t require journalists to disclose information that they would prefer to keep private. But similarly, don’t prohibit them from sharing whatever personal information or context they wish to offer. Ultimately, these disclosures are about people, not organizations. Editors and managers can supply examples and encourage good judgment–but if a writer really thinks it’s important to let readers know that he votes Republican, vacations in Brazil, volunteers as an abortion clinic escort, loathes cilantro, or has a favorite Beatle, that’s his business.
Make it easy for journalists to update their statements.
Life goes on–which means life circumstances, current concerns, and personal views constantly evolve. New issues always come up, so a journalists’ transparency statement should be a living document that the journalist can modify at will. Make sure your content management system makes this easy. It’s not a good idea to edit this document daily (that could make you look obsessed with what others think), but it should be revisited at least annually or every few months.