When Capital Witch (the PNC-DC bureau) released its article, I contacted David Salisbury about whether the people quoted as withdrawing their support from OHF were affiliated with Firefly, and if so, whether that needed to be disclosed. David responded that he had contacted the national Executive Editor and that:
The conclusion is that unless people quoted are speaking on behalf of the organizations they belong to, they don’t need to have all their group affiliations listed out. Primarily because there is so much group crossover in local Pagan communities.
David then acknowledged that he was a member of Firefly and a donor to OHF. He went on to elaborate that in order to achieve “oppositional balance” while working to a deadline, they sourced some other quotes, including mine.
PNC has now released a review of PNC bureaus’ behavior in both this situation and one involving Pantheacon. They found some unacceptable behavior. I am glad PNC is reviewing its policies. For my own full disclosure, I will note here that I am also the blog coordinator for Hail Columbia, which recently joined the PNC family, and I am very interested in making sure that all of Hail Columbia’s work lives up to PNC’s standards and ethics.
But I think PNC’s disclosure missed or downplayed two critical things: the attribution and disclosure of those quotes and the deadline set by Capital Witch. Katrina emphasizes why some of the lack of disclosure surrounding the article was more than a lapse of journalistic standards; it was in and of itself a conflict of interest situation. In particular, the short-term deadline set by Capital Witch – apparently by David himself – was not in response to growing community insistence that the issue be covered; on the contrary, to me it seemed to inflame the situation further.
More importantly, I think PNC needs to review this policy of disclosing affiliation in contentious situations. I believe the decision not to mention whether people were affiliated (or not) with Firefly was a bad decision and poor journalism. Even if individuals are not speaking on behalf of an organization, if there is a situation that directly involves an organization and the individual is affiliated with it, that affiliation should be disclosed.
I hope PNC’s internal review will address this matter as well.