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Editor Smith: Journalists Surrender Certain Rights

Well, gang, here I go again, into the brave new world of Huckleberries. With all due respect, Brent Andrews is flat out wrong.

We have long-held (before my time) and widely accepted ethics rules that limit -- no question, they limit -- the ability of our journalists to express personal opinion in certain situations, particularly with respect to politics. Those policies currently are framed in print terms. All newspaper of which I'm aware have or are in the process of determining how those policies extend to the online world. The questions are complex, the answers elusive. But here's the bottom line. No employee of the SR newsroom can actively engage in political activity (that policy has been in place for years). A journalist who feels his or her rights to speech are hindered may make the free choice to do something else as Brent Andrews has done. One of the prices we pay for the privilege of serving citizens as journalists is the voluntary surrender of opportunities some others can exercise. When that price becomes too high for any one person, they can choose to move on.

I'll send Dave an electronic copy of my two- three-year old explanation of political involvement policy so that he can post it. I have no idea where our online ethics discussions will go. But, in the meantime, I was urging caution on the part of our journalists and the simple application of common sense. I find that relatively non-threatening. (And, as i told our folks, it is absolutely OK to weigh in on journalistic issues, such as this one.)

Last point, unlike some papers of which I'm aware, we have a no-fault policy in our newsroom. Journalists can say whatever they want about the paper, or me or our policies without repercussion. It's true. Ask 'em.


DFO: You can find The Spokesman-Review policy on political involvement here and the SR Code of Ethics here.

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Huckleberries Online

D.F. Oliveria started Huckleberries Online on Feb. 16, 2004. Oliveria's Sunday print Huckleberries is a past winner of the national Herb Caen Memorial Column contest.