Ever since we got our hands on Politico‘s hot new ethics manual, we’ve been staying up late at night memorizing the lines. Here’s one we like…”If you find yourself heading into a problem area, it is a lot easier to ask for guidance in advance than to scrape off your shoe after stepping in it.” In what, dog shit?
We like to keep manual under our pillows, hoping the wisdom will seep in by osmosis. Today we continue with our advice column, Ask Ms. Politico, in which we ask the knowledgeable woman a question and she answers us directly from the ethics manual. While the questions are the ones we invent, her answers are real. To see past questions and answers, see here and here. We’re working our way through this as slow as we possibly can. Or as NBC’s Luke Russert might say, we’re “slow-walking” our way through it. We like to take our time with national treasures.
Q: Hi there Missy. I seem to have a terrible problem with popping off. I have opinions and sometimes it’s hard to keep my big fat mouth shut. Also, I have these horrible friends, Smith and Jones. They are both jerks. But Jones in particular is a real nobody. What should I do?
See Ms. Politico’s response…
Please note: All commentary in brackets is that of FishbowlDC and not in the manual.
Ms. Politico: The idea of journalists checking their political views at the door is old. But these days, there are a lot of new temptations. One of those we worry about most is on cable television [especially if your name is Joe Williams and you’re calling Mitt Romney a racist]. We are proud of our reporting and work hard to get our reporters on television talking about subjects in which they have genuine expertise [except for Fox News because they think we’re a bunch of idiots not worthy of their airwaves. But fuck them! MSNBC loves us.] But please never forget that you are there to share information and analyze political stories, not to proffer your own opinions. It is hard, because cable television lives off controversy and hungers for opinion. Host may naturally try to pin you down on what you think [and like a moron, Williams took the bait] or whether you agree that Smith is a jerk or predict that Jones is toast. It is natural to worry that you’ll sound like a mumbling moron if you don’t play along. But an easy out is always to say with a smile that it’s your job to report the fight, not to join in. On the most sensitive stories, it is also important in public comments to stick with what you and editors have approved for publication. There are countless instances in which a carefully crafted story was undermined by the author making additional comments in interviews. Stick to what was approved. …Just as politicians usually learn, to their regret, that they should always assume the mike [sic] is live, we should assume that we are always on. [This is precisely why we hired David Chalian to show you that screwing up with a live mic will get you hired at POLITICO. For anyone who doesn’t know, Yahoo! News fired Chalian for, pardon the expression, popping off about Mitt Romney.] When in doubt, as Brit Hume once said in a (slightly) different context, “put a sock in it.”