The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32

Covering the Cheat Beat

TODAY’S LUNCHTIME QUESTION: The Rocky Mountain Progressive Network has delivered a fidelity pledge to lawmakers supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment. To preserve the sanctity of marriage, the legislators must promise that they will not and have not cheated on their partners.

Say you’re a newspaper managing editor of a paper with unlimited resources. The executive editor comes up to you and says she’s got this idea for an investigation: How many senators are cheating on their spouses? A database of how much fidelity you can track down in the most hallowed chamber of Congress. You can use this information as you wish; perhaps cross-referencing it with those who’ve pledged to support the FMA, supposedly out of respect for the sanctity of marriage.

What do you say?

One comment

Robin says…


TO: Matt Thompson, Executive Editor, The Daily Blatt

FM: Robin Sloan, Managing Editor, The Daily Blatt

CC: All Staff

I’ve been wrestling with this proposal for a few days, torn between a) the overwhelming belief that this would be a nasty, sleazy project to undertake, and b) the persistent notion that it would be valuable to yank politicians beyond their rhetoric to get at what they really believe about marriage.

My instincts told me to simply go with (a).

But then I was reminded of Bob Steele‘s maxim that one of the biggest mistakes we make when considering ethical dilemmas is to assume that there are only two possible answers: yes/no, either/or.

So why not generate some other possibilities?

Our primary journalistic purpose is to show Daily Blatt readers how marriage is actually lived in America. Our secondary purpose is to probe politicians’ statements on this matter very closely: Are they speaking from sincere religious belief? From reason? From habit? From political calculation?

With that in mind, we could:

  • get politicians to talk, on the record, about their approaches to their own marriages, and about difficulties they’ve had.
  • find a politician who has engaged in adultery — preferably long ago, preferably by his own admission — and sit him down for a detailed interview, with an eye towards how the experience affected his current views on marriage.
  • explore the religious dimension very thoroughly with a series of interviews with religious leaders (who lead real churches, synagogues, mosques, where they do real weddings) and politicians. We’d throw in a lawyer for good measure, an expert on civil unions and issues of church and state. Maybe we could interview them all at once! Wait, do we do civic journalism at the Blatt?
  • gather and synthesize statistics to paint a realistic picture of marriage in America — happiness, productivity, strife, divorce, adultery, and all.

The third and fourth options are straightforward; in fact, I’ll get some of our staff writers here at The Daily Blatt working on them right away. (We do have unlimited resources, after all.)

The first two options will demand total straightforwardness and honesty about our intentions, and a sharp eye to pick the right subjects. It’ll also take some good old-fashioned salesmanship.

It’s a good thing, then, that we’ve been so fair and judicious in all of our other reporting. Our good faith and transparency has built up a deep account of credibility that serves as credit for tough stories like these: stories that demand much from our sources, as well as from our reporters.

So let’s spike the creepy fidelity database. There are other ways to achieve the same goal — other ways that maximize honesty and minimize harm.

Thx for the suggestion, tho. How are we doing on that new weekly video game section?

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