Disclosure in the Age of Twitter

mark.jpgThe Internet is a-twitter with discussions about a post written by MediaShift’s Mark Glaser detailing the trials and tribulations of New York University j-schooler Alana Taylor. After Twittering about her class from in class (and writing a subsequent post on Glaser’s site), Professor Mary Quigley told Taylor she was no longer allowed to do that, citing privacy issues and distractions.

Taylor told Glaser about her conversation with Quigley and he wrote a long, thoughtful essay about the implications, speaking with NYU professors, freedom of speech experts and lawyers. Quite frankly, Glaser does an excellent job of discussing the matter, so we won’t try to rehash it here. Just read the damn thing.

We were, however, interested to note that some commenters on MediaShift took exception to the fact that Taylor didn’t alert her professor to the project beforehand. As one person put it, “real ’embedded’ journalists are clearly identified, by the way.” We agreed with the take — if the point is to effect change, wouldn’t it be better to be upfront about it? — so we emailed Glaser for his response. His words after the jump.

I initially did not like the fact that Alana had not talked to her professor directly for the story. Her response was that if she told her professor ahead of time, she would not have been able to write the piece — that her professor would have stifled it ahead of time. I think her post was less a piece of reported journalism and more a first-person opinionated account of what went on in a class at NYU and how it fell short of her needs. You might argue that it’s just her point of view and that she doesn’t know everything — but she is entitled to her opinion.

I told Alana that the only way I would run that first piece was on the condition that her next piece included an interview with her professor and other faculty at NYU to get their side of the story. When that was blocked for her, I felt the need to report that myself. I agree that the point was to affect change in the system, and doing it in an “undercover” sneak attack on the teacher was not the best way to do that. However, I also don’t think that the teacher’s response was the right one either. Yes, you can teach your student a lesson about sourcing and getting permission, etc., but why not bring it up as a topic of discussion in class rather than trying to silence everyone?