I am a Guardian reader with all that implies for followers of political and socioeconomic indicators in Britain (but I’m also an FT reader, which I suspect is a relatively uncommon phenomenon).
So it was particularly disheartening for me to read an article in The Guardian last week about syndication. I’m not a techie, although I might be described as a techie manquée. Even for me, however, there seemed a lot wrong about the article’s portrayal of the tussle between RSS and Atom. Fortunately, Rogers Cadenhead has catalogued the errors.
What is equally serious for me is the apparent conflict of interest undisclosed by the author, Ben Hammersley. As Cadenhead notes, Hammersley was deeply involved in the development of RSS 1.0, the “faction” that seems to have led to the development of Atom. The article in The Guardian, which paints Atom as the solution and RSS 2.0 as the problem, does not indicate that Hammersley is parti pris.
The Guardian’s own newspaper code plainly declares:
“It is always necessary to declare an interest when the journalist is writing about something with which he or she has a significant connection. This applies to both staff journalists and freelances writing for the Guardian. The declaration should be to a head of department or editor during preparation. Full transparency may mean that the declaration should appear in the paper or website as well.
A connection does not have to be a formal one before it is necessary to declare it. Acting in an advisory capacity in the preparation of a report for an organisation, for example, would require a declaration every time the journalist wrote an article referring to it.
The article could have run as an opinion piece, advocating one side of the story. To innocent readers of the newspaper, however, it posed as an objective account.
Many of my US friends assume that journalistic standards in Britain are lower than in the US. I don’t think that’s the case for the better British papers, a category in which I’d certainly include The Guardian. But here’s an instance where my dear Guardian seems to have fallen badly short of its declared standards.
The Panda’s Thumb is becoming a regular read for me. It’s a weblog on evolution (and passionately against the pernicious “intelligent design” advocates). Panda’s Thumb is a good ally to have against the forces of unreason.
Revel in this refutation of an ID article.