Blogging without accountability in the heartland

Blogging without accountability in the heartland
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There’s been a lot of talk about blogger ethics lately in light of the death threats posted the other week to technologist blogger Kathy Sierra’s site. It has raised all sorts of blogging issues, including the important issue of accountability.

The writing here on DeSmogBlog is considered by some to be controversial and with controversy comes an even higher expectation of accountability. We stand by every single word we write. Period. If we write something incorrect, we do not distance ourselves from the mistake, we take ownership and correct ourselves in a timely fashion.

I came across a site yesterday called “From the Heartland,” (FTH) that claims to be the Heartland Institute’s “unofficial blog.” On the site you will find frequent posts by Heartland President Joseph Bast and a DNS search shows that the site is registered to the Heartland Institute’s address in Chicago. The FTH “About” section is simply cut and pasted from the Heartland Institute’s “official” website.

Strangely though, on the home page of the “unofficial” FTH it states: “no opinion posted here should be taken to represent an official view taken by The Heartland Institute. All opinions, insights, discoveries, revelations, observations, and profundities herein are solely those of their respective authors.”

So you have a blog registered to the Heartland Institute, with postings from the President of the Institute, yet somehow it is not an “official” blog of the Institute and we should take nothing from the site to be representative of the Institute. So why have a blog at all?

I am guessing that the Heartland’s justification may have something to do with their charitable status, in that many think-tanks shy away form the open format of blogs because of the IRS requirement that registered charities remain non-partisan. However, if that is in fact the case, then one may be inclined to think that by putting the word “unofficial” on a site registered to your organization you can effectively avoid the IRS requirement to remain non-partisan.

This is speculation of course and since we now know that Joseph Bast and others at the Heartland are DSBlog readers, I look forward to hearing their explanation.

On the issue of accountability, it would be great to think that an organization can simply air their views, but conveniently distance themselves from those views with a simple phrase like “unofficial,” but that’s simply not the case. If you’re going to write something, anything at all, you need to be held “officially” accountable and to do anything less makes what you say all that more suspect.

Blogging without accountability in the heartland

Kevin is a contributor and strategic adviser to DeSmogBlog.

He runs the digital marketing agency Spake Media House. Named a “Green Hero” by Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the “Top 50 Tweeters” on climate change and environment issues, Kevin has appeared in major news media outlets around the world for his work on digital campaigning.

Kevin has been involved in the public policy arena in both the United States and Canada for more than a decade. For five years he was the managing editor of DeSmogBlog.com. In this role, Kevin’s research into the “climate denial industry” and the right-wing think tank networks was featured in news media articles around the world. He is most well known for his ground-breaking research into David and Charles Koch’s massive financial investments in the Republican and tea party networks.

Kevin is the first person to be designated a “Certified Expert” on the political and community organizing platform NationBuilder.

Prior to DeSmogBlog, Kevin worked in various political and government roles. He was Senior Advisor to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and a Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Asia Pacific, Foreign Affairs for the Government of Canada. Kevin also worked in various roles in the British Columbia provincial government in the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Health.

In 2008 Kevin co-founded a groundbreaking new online election tool called Vote for Environment which was later nominated for a World Summit Award in recognition of the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications.

Kevin moved to Washington, DC in 2010 where he worked for two years as the Director of Online Strategy for Greenpeace USA and has since returned to his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

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