Put them on the table

Now you swear and kick and beg us
That you’re not a gamblin’ man
Then you find you’re back in vegas
With a handle in your hand
Your black cards can make you money
So you hide them when you’re able
In the land of milk and honey
You must put them on the table

Steely Dan’s Do It Again

There’s been a lot of talk on the blogosphere recently about the twin-headed hydra of Eason Jordan and JD Guckert/Jeff Gannon. Others have done a much better job dissecting these respective controversies, so I won’t muddy the water with more reportage.

One of the interesting side discussions here, or rather a central discussion that has meandered in punditry, is the question of the media’s role, specifically blog media, in covering news. The current incarnation focuses on how effective “the right” and “the left” are at parsing current events and advancing their own agendas through meme-spreading.

I have to admit that this discussion does not interest me all that much. It quickly spirals into a “he said, she said” contest that ends in name-calling and blog triumphalism. I’m not really a fan of either one, so I choose, instead to pursue a different tact. Besides, aren’t blogs natural extensions of the people who sit at the terminals typing them? Isn’t advising bloggers on styles and methods a bit like criticizing their wardrobe choices (pajamas? ties? nothing? who cares?)? In the end, each blog gained success because they were, by definition, unique as the people who inspire and publish them.

The one nugget of wisdom that is continually trumpeted throughout the blogosphere, regardless of political inclinations or blog scope, is the notion that transparency is key when you’re dealing with the written word as seen on flickering screens across the world. This key lesson applies not only to the subjects of twin focus, Jordan and Gannon, but also to news organizations small and large – meaning TV networks as well as blogs. Be open and honest about where you stand and you’ll be on solid ground with both critics and fans.

All markets are conversations and if you want to gain and retain folks, you’ve got to be square with them about yourself and the topics you blog. As Cluetrain author Doc Searles notes, what we need is more transparency. The business world, notably marketers and PR practitioners are touting the same impassioned plea for transparency to their constituents, otherwise they’ll end up like McDonald’s.

Isn’t it time this idea virus spread to our elected officials as well? Wouldn’t it be great if we truly had a national (global? universal?) debate about Social Security. Sadly, the commander-in-chief won’t lay his cards on the table and if he can’t, well then, he hasn’t learned the lessons of the 21st century media.

“The tendency in Washington is, ‘OK, Mr. President, you play your cards now and we’ll decide if we’re going to play ours. I’m not going to do that. I’m keeping them close to the vest.” [link]

In the end, I don’t buy any of the bunk about any group being better equipped to spread their brand of taint (or truth, depending on your perspective) throughout the internets and back to the mainstream media. I just think some bloggers are more accustomed to being completely open and honest about their ideologies, interests and agendas and that’s what’s key. No one person or group is going to be perfect because we’re all human (or all NOT human). The key to a better society/internet/blogosphere/country/whatever lies in the shared debate we all enjoy when all of us are open and honest.

Put your cards, all your cards, on the table and the best hand will determine the winner. Any talk of style, substance or bias is merely a critique of a blogger’s ability or willingness to be as thorough and transparent as possible. Everything else is just hot air.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I work for TBS, a network owned by Time Warner, also the parent company of CNN. Yes, I’m aware that CNN.com has an article about blogging and it’s pitfalls. Here’s hoping I don’t get Dooced.