There's Something You Should Know...

Remember the uproar a few weeks ago, when an MSNBC study identified 143 journalists who had contributed to political campaigns? My colleague discussed the study in this space, I took to the airwaves, and the debate even led a Washington Post reader to ask Howard Kurtz if movie reviewer Stephen Hunter – who donated some coin to the GOP – should have recused himself from a review of Michael Moore's "Sicko."

I don't know if this has anything to do with the study and its repercussions in the news business, but one single page in yesterday's Washington Post "Outlook" section stood out to me. Two different people contributing to the weekly opinion section shared their own personal disclosures, coincidentally both on page B5.

First, there was Drew Westen, an Emory professor, saying that the Democrats are traditionally the Tin Men in elections. He said that until they show they've got some "heart," they can expect to continue to be presidential runners-up. But he also slid in a little biographical information:

(In the interests of full disclosure: I'm not working for any one candidate, but I've given advice to the Clinton, Obama and Edwards campaigns.)
Then there was Anne-Marie Slaughter, who was wrote of the new battleground in Washington. According to her, Republicans vs. Democrats is so 20th Century – the real fights are between partisans and bipartisans. And along the way, she tacked on the following admission:
(Full disclosure: I have contributed to Obama's and Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaigns.)
True, opinion sections ain't the same as news pages, and there is certainly no need for a "Fairness Doctrine" debate over them. But it feels as though the new, partially blog-fueled outcry for greater transparency on the part of newspapers is starting to take hold. What once might have been tossed into an italicized byline at the close of a piece – or, potentially, left out altogether – is now being introduced into the content of the article.

Yes, it colors our reading of the piece, and makes us read it differently – in the same way that knowing his biography colored how I read how Walter Mondale (in his Outlook piece) perceives the office of Vice-President. But anytime we're reading something and we're more aware of the writer's perspective, isn't that a plus?