@alternet’s Max Blumenthal Violated Society of Professional Journalists’ Ethical Guidelines
“The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.
“Journalists should refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”
So reads the Society of Professional Journalists’ (SJP) code of ethics. The code is not a binding set of rules for SJP’s 7,500 members but a set of best practices for professional journalism in the U.S.
Max Blumenthal flouted this guideline when he accepted “gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment” given to attendees of Russia Today’s December 2015 tenth anniversary celebration. That same offer was accepted by U.S. general and top Donald Trump military advisor Michael Flynn and U.S. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, neither of whom are journalists.
So Blumenthal’s journalism is now compromised by his financial relationship with the Kremlin. His work since December 2015 can no longer be regarded as serving the public interest, including his two-part hit piece smearing Syrian first responders known as the White Helmets as agents of a foreign conspiracy. We have no idea if he is continuing to be paid by the Kremlin for his appearances on their network Russia Today, the most recent of which occurred on November 28, 2016.
What makes Blumenthal’s flagrant disregard for basic journalistic ethics even worse is that he is a Senior Editor at Alternet. Not only should he know better than to take Kremlin cash, his American employer should know better as well. Employing a known Kremlin shill is going to put Alternet in the crosshairs of a new body within the U.S. government created to monitor and combat Russian government disinformation campaigns.
It is almost certainly too late for Blumenthal to return whatever “gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment” he received from Russia Today. But to restore public faith in his journalistic integrity, he should publicly disclose the terms of his contract(s) with Russia Today as a means of reassuring everyone that he is no longer on their payroll.