Ethics Dunce: Huffington Post Blogger Mike Elk

Correctionmake 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?

 

9 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Huffington Post Blogger Mike Elk

  1. If congress allow Rangel to stay in place for years, what does that tell us about the trustiworthiness of congress? They didn’t even expel him!

    One bad apple does not a bad organization make. That’s one of the standard informal fallacies.

    By all means, attack Huffpo, but attack it for the right reasons: the continuing trend towards sex sells stories, the junk science and anti-vaxer support, the editing of posts from contributors that go after their sacred cows.

    • Yes, that too.
      HuffPo banned Elk because he embarrassed them, not because of his ethics. They don’t vet bloggers for ethics. They wait until they’ve done something so egregious that it can’t be covered up.

      • HuffPo banned Elk because he embarrassed them, not because of his ethics. They don’t vet bloggers for ethics. They wait until they’ve done something so egregious that it can’t be covered up.

        I wouldn’t be surprised, but is there any evidence for this, along with evidence that other “news” organizations do things differently?

      • Jack, I’m no fan of the Huffington Post, but I have to agree that your attempt to try to indict the entire website for this one blogger’s behavior is a bit of a stretch. I say, give credit where credit is due — it seems that the Huffington Post took the ethical course here. Compare that to Wired standing by morally-challenged Journolister Spencer Ackerman, who suggested that his fellow “journalists” falsely accuse conservatives (“any conservative”) of racism in order to squelch discussion of the President’s association with the Reverend Wright.

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