I need to clarify one point in Will Swaim's previous post about Matt Cunningham finally coming out of the Jubal closet, and Cunningham's disingenuous defense of the uses he was making of his secret identity. It's easy to confuse which version of Cunningham is which sometimes (it could have been even more confusing if I had included in the story the other pseudonyms Cunningham publishes under on the internet– one of which, it probably won't surprise you to learn, has also been singled out for praise by Jubal in the past), and that confusion combined with the way Cunningham is trying to frame the issue may obscure part of the story.
Cunningham claims not disclosing the fact that Diane Harkey's state senate campaign paid his blog consulting firm, BlogAtomic, $1050 isn't worth the ink the Weekly gave it, because the money was used to buy an ad on OC Blog. Leaving aside the fact that OC Blog readers had no way of knowing that the ad money wasn't just going to the blog, but also to one of Cunningham's outside businesses, this response doesn't address the other half of the problem. When I wrote “He [Cunningham] hasn't disclosed that payment in any of his subsequent posts on the senate race” I was referring to his posts on the FlashReport, something I thought was clear since the sentence goes on to say, “and he certainly hasn't disclosed the payment on OC Blog”. Cunningham never disclosed the payment on the FlashReport, where he blogs under his own name and where the other bloggers disclose their business ties to the subjects of their posts. Even Cunningham occasionally discloses a business relationship on the FlashReport, but he chose not to do so when it came to the Harkey campaign.
For reasons of space, a rather charming detail about Cunningham's non-disclosure was dropped from the final version of the story. Records show the Harkey campaign paid BlogAtomic the $1050 on January 17. In a January 17 FlashReport post time stamped 3:10 pm, Cunningham manages to shoehorn a pro-Harkey line into a post about 67th Assembly district race. Now, potential clients of Cunningham's are free to admire that as prompt customer service or good value for money, but FlashReport readers who visit the site in hopes of finding trustworthy commentary are likely to take a dimmer view. Just as they would no doubt take a dimmer view of two of Cunningham's subsequent touching on the state senate race, which directed them the OC Blog's special section devoted to the race, featuring more than 120 posts, all pro-Harkey, all but four of which were written by Cunningham as Jubal.
A final note about that January 17 FlashReport post: it opens, “I just saw on OC Blog…” Five words into the post, and Cunningham is already linking to one of his Jubal posts, in order to let his readers know what he just saw on OC Blog. In other words, he's claiming to have just seen something he wrote himself. Normally when people make such a claim, it's a sign of untreated mental illness– in Cunningham's case, it's just business as usual.
Also cut from the story for reasons of space was a line pointing out that hiding behind the Jubal pseudonym spared Cunningham from having to disclose his business dealing with the subjects of his posts. I have to admit now, I underestimated Cunningham. He doesn't need a secret identity to keep his readers in the dark. Consider this OC Blog post he put up as Jubal, four days after the Weekly story appeared: “Word Is Getting Around About Freedom-Friendly Anaheim”. What Jubal doesn't tell the reader is Matt Cunningham does consulting work for “Freedom-Friendly Anaheim”.
I knew blogs were supposed to increase in the interactivity between reader and writer, but I had no idea that as part of that interactivity it was now up to the reader to figure out on his own if the writer is taking money from the subject of his posts.