On Dec. 20, 2007 I mentioned that Newsweek.com had launched a new group political blog, The Ruckus, authored by a team of well-known conservative and liberal political bloggers. It’s not intended to be journalism, but rather “a spectrum of the political argument and analysis taking place in the blogosphere,” according to Newsweek.com editor Dierdre Depke.
Just a couple of months ago, a similar project — Wide Open at the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s site — imploded over an ethical conflict: The paper’s management balked when they learned that one of the bloggers on its payroll, Jeff Coryell, had contributed to a current political campaign. Unfortunately the paper hadn’t clarified up front that their no-contributions newsroom policy would apply to the bloggers. This sparked considerable acrimony when Coryell was let go. Fellow liberal blogger Jill Miller Zimon resigned in solidarity, and the blog was suspended on Nov. 2, 2007.
That won’t happen at The Ruckus, Depke told me this morning by e-mail: “We actively recruited a mix of bloggers from across the political spectrum for The Ruckus. As partisan voices, we fully expected some would make contributions to political campaigns or would have done so in the past. At least one blogger previously held an official position with the national Republican party, and we’re okay with that.
“What we didn’t want — and wouldn’t accept — is a blogger who is currently employed directly by a party or political campaign. The Ruckus bloggers are guest contributors, akin to op-ed writers, meaning they are not subject to the same strict guidelines Newsweek’s editors and writers must adhere to. We don’t regard Ruckus bloggers as reporters objectively covering stories for Newsweek, and neither should our readers.”
Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association (which arranged for some of its members to write for The Ruckus) also clarified that Newsweek is not paying its bloggers directly; it’s paying the MBA, and MBA is paying the bloggers. (More about MBA’s role in The Ruckus from Steve Outing.)
Depke added that the problems with Cleveland.com did not affect Newsweek’s planning and policies for The Ruckus.