Jul 21, 2009

Does new Capitol Hill social network fail the ethics test?

J.P Freire at the Washington Examiner contends that the National Journal has crossed a few ethical lines with its new social-networking site for Capitol Hill staffers called 3121, comparing it to the pay-to-play scandal that embarrassed the Washington Post a couple weeks ago.

The private site uses special software to keep out prying eyes, giving Capitol Hill insiders a private and secure site where they can chat and collaborate. Advertisers - including lobbyists and special interest groups - are given the opportunity to target and tailor ads to one of their most important constituencies: congressional aides and the members they serve.

The problem here isn't the service, Freire argues, but the organization that's providing it. National Journal is first and foremost a news organization charged with covering the very people who would use the confidential site and would be profiting by giving interest group access to the very same people:
While cloud collaboration on legislation may provide a viable solution to many logistical woes for Congress, should a journalistic enterprise be providing a "secure" platform for it that provides "privacy"?
Freire adds:

And what of the advertisers who participate? Who can they access? "Sponsoring 3121 goes beyond traditional advertising, giving you the opportunity to reach the people creating legislation within their online community. Being associated with this new feature will allow you to build connections and start a valuable conversation with a targeted group of some of the most powerful people in the political world." (emphasis mine)

Advertisers will also have the opportunity to present a question to the key legislative aides. "National Journal Group will develop a new poll that will be online only and it will survey our group of 3121 beta-testers ["a highly targeted group of Capitol Hill staffers"]. The sponsor will be listed and and will also have the opportunity to develop a question."

And as for David Miller's claim that the editorial side of National Journal will not be involved: "A survey of reporters and editors at National Journal Group will be undertaken to get their views on new media."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Since when is it the job of journalists to connect lobbyists to legislators? WTF?