Of all the posts generated by Matt Naugle getting into John Brunner's Facebook, my favorite may be from Paul at Newshound. For a number of bloggers, both on- and offline, the incident was an opportunity to discuss where The Line is. Paul does the deepest thinking on that issue. Given that this occurred just after someone in the tech blogger community stepped waaaay over the line, it's a healthy debate to have.
Paul spotlights a journalistic standard that works to a point. Certainly, if information about a public official's home life has nothing to do with that person's job performance, it's not news. But the fact is, bloggers are a bit of a hybrid. They disseminate information like journalists. For many of us, we also attempt to persuade like op-ed writers. But often we also try to rally action on an issue or about a political candidate or office holder. This last requires some sharper definition of the line.
For me, the line lies at the threshold of one's home. And as such, when Jerid posted the home phone number of State Republican Chair and Cuy Co Board of Elections holdout Bob Bennett and urging people to call him at home and tell him to quit the board, I thought it was wrong.
I thought it was wrong at the time and expressed that in private conversations. In the spirit of self-policing, I should have said something at the time, but always had something more pressing to do. So I'll say it now. Allow a man or woman the sanctuary of the home. To do otherwise is over the line.
Since I'm also a badge-carrying member of the False Equivalency Police, I also note that there are degrees of badness here. Jerid posting the home phone number for Bennett was not the same as Naugle going after Brunner through her son, but each lies along the same scale of impropriety. For that matter, there is a difference between posting home info of a public figure like Bennett versus the Republicans doing the same to a citizen activist like Jerid. To be perfectly clear:
- Posting home contact information of a public official: Wrong.
Posting home contact information of a blogger: Wronger.
Attacking a public official you don't like by attacking her son: Wrongest.