Correction—make that fired Huffington Post blogger Mike Elk, and here’s why: Elk, a 24-year-old freelance labor journalist, used his press credentials to get labor union demonstrators unauthorized access to a Mortgage Bankers Association event, where they protested and disrupted the proceedings. He gave his credentials to one of the union organizers.
When the Huffington Post’s business editor learned of the incident, he wrote to Elk in a Jan. 20 email, saying,
“I’m sorry to say we are revoking your access to our blog and ending our association. I appreciate that what happened yesterday was a poor decision on your part, one made on the spur of the moment, but it was simply over the line from an ethical standpoint and it would compromise our integrity to have you continue to write for us or represent us in any way.”
Well, of course. But Elk, who had contributed more than 100 posts since being recruited as a blogger in 2009, uttered this astounding defense, telling Yahoo’s Joe Pompeo:
“I never lied to anybody at any step in this process. There is a tradition in labor journalism to be active participant journalists.This is a tactic union organizers use all the time.”
Pompeo noted that Elk also cited Michael Moore as his ethical model.
That’s Ethics Strike One: Michael Moore is ethically-challenged, and is a political activist, not a journalist. Anyone who uses him as an ethical model shouldn’t be trusted to buy postage stamps.
Strike Two: Elk apparently doesn’t know what a lie is. He gave press credentials to a union member who used them to misrepresent himself. Elk made the misrepresentation possible, intentionally. That’s lying.
Strike Three: “Active participant journalist” does not mean “misusing your affiliation with a news organization to embarrass them and put their ability to cover the news at risk.” Journalists, moreover, are ethically bound to cover the news, not participate in it. His definition of “active participant journalist” is really “unethical, dishonest journalist.”
With three strikes, Elk is ethically out and headed for the bench, but he gets two more strikes anyway:
Strike Four and Five: “This is a tactic union organizers use all the time.” A doubly unethical comment! 1) It invokes the invalid rationalization “everybody does it” as ethical justification, the sure sign of an Ethics Dunce, and 2) he’s not a union organizer. How does the fact that this unethical union tactic is common justify a journalist’s assisting in it?
Yes, Mike Elk is an Ethics Dunce of awesome dimensions, leading to this troubling question:
If the Huffington Post provides such poor ethical oversight of its bloggers that someone like Elk wrote and posted 100 articles, what does that tell us about the integrity and trustworthiness of the website, even without him?