Peter Funt Peter Funt, 4/1/2010 [Archive]

Plenty to Disclose

I've Got Plenty to Disclose

By PETER FUNT

       

President Obama should immediately implement special training procedures for his dog Bo to avoid damage to irreplaceable White House carpets, furniture and even sensitive documents.

(Full disclosure: my new book, "Training Your Dog to Avoid Damage to Irreplaceable Belongings and Sensitive Documents," will be published next month.)

The recent statement by the Obamas to Brian Williams of NBC that their Portuguese water dog was caught "chewing a magazine," means they run the risk of suffering the same embarrassment the Bush family experienced when their Scottish terrier, Barney, bit a Reuters reporter.

(Full disclosure: this was covered extensively on my Web site, www.dogsandthepress.com. Also: I did not vote for President Bush.)

I've noticed that journalists have become quite fond of making disclosures. (Full disclosure: the disclosures in the first four paragraphs of this column were included to make a point about disclosures and are not true, except for the disclosure of my voting record.)

On the face of it, disclosures are a welcome trend, because when writers flag possible conflicts of interest it helps readers assess the merits of what is being reported.

But it also reminds me of a device my sister often used in conversation when we were growing up. She'd say, "No offense, but..." just before telling me something that was highly offensive. (Full disclosure: I also have another sister, plus two brothers.)

Some recent disclosures by major writers raises the question: In light of the disclosure, why are you the one writing this story?

A Newsweek cover story, for example, ripped talkshow diva Oprah Winfrey for allegedly promoting the work of quacks in the fields of medicine and fitness. Deep in the 6-thousand word report Newsweek's writers mocked Winfrey for her keen interest in a book about menopause by "A Dartmouth-educated ob-gyn," followed by:

"Disclosure: Newsweek correspondent Pat Wingert, who worked on this article, and contributor Barbara Kantrowitz are coauthors of a book on menopause."

This type of disclosure adds an aura of credibility to what could be a case of disqualifying bias. On the other hand, some disclosure-happy journalists go over the top for no apparent reason other than to be credited with candor. (Disclosure: The following are actual, unedited disclosures.)

"Full disclosure: I love the future!" - Sportingnews.com.

"Full disclosure: I'm afflicted by this particular anxiety. The uncertainty of being on the road keeps me home more than your average travel writer." - The Baltimore Sun.

"Full disclosure: The last time I cooked from it, I substituted trout roe for caviar." - The New York Times

"Full disclosure: I've ridden a bike around New York as my principal means of transport for 30 years, so I'm inclined to sympathize with the idea that a cycling revolution is upon us, and that it's a good thing." - The New York Times

"Full disclosure: "I have a personal connection too; some of my friends work on Sesame Street, and they aren't furry." - Time Magazine

"Full disclosure: The reporter who wrote this piece contacted me via email for an interview, [but] I didn't have the time to respond." - Feministing.com.

"OK, full disclosure here: I was born in Michigan. I live in Michigan. I love Michigan. I believe that many of the state's critics haven't spent enough time in these spirited environs to develop an informed opinion." - Fox Sports.

One interesting thing these disclosures have in common is that they are all "full." I haven't run across many partial disclosures or virtually complete disclosures in media these days. And why not just "disclosure"? Wouldn't that suffice?

Many over-cooked phrases in our mass communications, especially those seemingly intended to elevate the veracity of the writer or speaker, are really warning signs. "Fair and balanced," for instance, is basically a guarantee that what follows is neither. Similarly, the act of disclosing bias does not by itself create a license to be biased.

No offense, but full disclosures may be better than no disclosures, but not by much.

(Full disclosure: I am a frequent reader of the newspaper in which this appears.)

Peter Funt may be reached at www.candidcamera.com.

© 2010 Peter Funt. This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or e-mail Sales@cagle.com.

Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker.He's also the long-time host of "Candid Camera."A collection of his DVDs is available at www.candidcamera.com.



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