Should journalists be prohibited by their employers from donating time or money to political causes? Specific candidates? Etc.?
MSNBC.com identified 144 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 17 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties….
Traditionally, many news organizations have applied the rules to only political reporters and editors. The ethic was summed up by Abe Rosenthal, the former New York Times editor, who is reported to have said, "I don't care if you sleep with elephants as long as you don't cover the circus."…
[New Yorker editor David] Remnick…said that the magazine's writers don't do straight reporting. "Their opinions are out there," Remnick said. "There's nothing hidden." So why not disclose campaign donations to readers? "Should every newspaper reporter divulge who they vote for?"…
I am against mandatory disclosure laws for citizens when it comes to campaign-finance laws. As Brian Doherty has documented, that sensible-sounding requirement can be used to sledgehammer political dissent.
However, as a rule for a given news organization, I think writers giving disclosure when it's relevant is a good idea, even when we're talking about social networks rather than pure cash, etc. There are limits to all this, of course, but generally speaking more information is better than less when it comes to evaluating arguments, context, you name it. At the same time, simplistic "follow the money" gotchas–made famous in the movie version of All the President's Men; the phrase doesn't appear in the book version–are far from the be-all and end-all in public discourse.
reason asked its staff and others "Who's getting your vote?" back in 2004.
Update: Don't miss MSNBC's list of journalists who made political contributions and their explanations/exculpations for doing so. Highlights include former MTV presidential correspondent Gideon Yago ("I would never qualify what we do as journalism"), MSNBC travel correspondent Joel Widzer ("I'm actually a Republican….One of my friends works for Bill Richardson and asked me to give to the campaign."), and Forbes Senior Writer Tatiana Serafin ("I don't feel comfortable talking about my politics").