The TAO of Journalism

PrintLast week I took the TAO Pledge—a pledge to follow The TAO of Journalism: Transparent, Accountable and Open.

Wow! I had no idea there’d be something so perfect for a blog on the subject of qigong, which is deeply connected to the concept of Tao (or Dao in pinyin), and for a blogger who believes transparency, accountability and openness are essential.

But indeed there is, thanks to the Washington News Council, a small but active statewide organization.

The logo you see here caught my eye as I was standing at my kitchen counter reading the Seattle Times. Its core was the two-fishes-in-a-circle Chinese yin-yang symbol, which depicts the interdependency of seemingly opposite forces such as yin (female) and yang (male).

Beneath the logo, the word “Tao” was defined as “a Mandarin Chinese word meaning way, path, doctrine or principle”—although as “TAO” it also stands for being Transparent about who you are and what your affiliations and funding are; Accountable for your mistakes; and Open to hearing others’ points of view.

The logo was part of a half-page ad inviting student journalists to join legacy journalists, citizen journalists and independent bloggers—c’est moi!—in taking the TAO Pledge.

I loved it. I’m partial to the two-fishes symbol, although I feel its use here is more decorative than literal, but I absolutely believe in the T, the A and the O.

When I was setting up this blog I considered using a pseudonym because I didn’t want anyone showing up on my doorstep to discuss qigong with me in person. I decided to use my real name because I have always believed that, barring extenuating circumstances, you shouldn’t publish something you’re not willing to put your name behind. Also, I intended to be as honest as possible in what I wrote, and I didn’t see how readers could believe me if I was withholding a key fact—my identity.

This issue came up for me again several weeks ago, when I received notification that a fellow blogger was following my blog and that I might want to check his out. I did. There was some interesting material on his site, including a recounting of his personal spiritual journey.

Not too long ago, I would have dismissed much of what he wrote as way too woo-woo, perhaps even delusional. Now that I experience invisible qi, I can’t do that; what he says he’s experienced could be as real as anything else.

But all I know about this blogger is that his name is Mark and he lives in Shanghai. Yes, perhaps he is an IBM salesman, and posting a photo of himself and revealing his identity while writing about unconventional subjects might be hazardous to his career. Still, I am uncomfortable….

But back to the TAO of Journalism. I like the idea of taking a pledge, of joining with other journalists in a statement of values. I also like the concept of tao, which to me has more spiritual oomph than a list of dos and don’ts, although I don’t suppose the Washington News Council was striving for spiritual oomph.

One more thing: The TAO Pledge has teeth.

If you ever feel I have violated my pledge, you can report me by clicking on the TAO of Journalism logo that will henceforth appear in the right-hand column of qifrontier.com’s home page, beneath the button for following my blog via e-mail.

P.S. This is either an appropriate or inappropriate occasion to mention this, but my Commerce Corner is now up and running. Commerce Corner is an attempt at “monetizing” this website, to use a sanitary word for what the Car Talk Guys refer to on the radio as “shameless commerce.”

I have listed some books, CDs and other products that have been important to me in my practice of qigong; I will be adding others. If you click on any item, you will be taken to amazon.com, where you can learn more about the item and perhaps purchase it. If you purchase it this way, I will earn a small commission and my accountant and I will be grateful. I will never know who purchased what, if indeed anyone purchases anything, so there’s no pressure, not even for my friends.

4 Comments

Filed under About this blog, Commercial Qi, Ethics

4 responses to “The TAO of Journalism

  1. Here are some further thoughts about what the Tao is and what sort of deference we might owe to pinyin spelling.

    As to the Tao itself, let’s turn to the first chapter of that seminal work, the classic “Tao te Ching,” which introduces the subject by telling us that such an introduction is impossible:

    The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
    The name that can be named is not the eternal name
    The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
    The named is the mother of myriad things
    Thus, constantly without desire, one observes its essence
    Constantly with desire, one observes its manifestations
    These two emerge together but differ in name
    The unity is said to be the mystery
    Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders

    This translation is from the website taoism.net. If it is not exactly as you recall, don’t be alarmed. Translating Chinese into English is difficult. I had a Unitarian friend who collected translations of this work and amused himself by reading selections out loud, just to show how they could come out so dramatically different. This friend, Bruce Leber, was not a Taoist, but sometimes I wonder if Taoist immortality — if it actually exists — might have been conferred on him when he died, if only to acknowledge that he spent more time with this sacred text than most self-proclaimed Taoists. (Among the many translations, my personal favorite is by Ursula K. Le Guin: “Lao Tzu : Tao Te Ching : A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way.” She finds a graceful way to avoid masculine assumption expressed in many other translations. This book is very readable.)

    If a journalist had written the above chapter, you could easily guess it would not fare well beneath the editor’s pencil. It reenforces my assertion that journalism is not Taoist, nor should it strive to be.

    As to the use of pinyin, I have tried to develop a personal framework for deciding when to use this system, which was embraced by the Chinese government in the 1950s and officially adopted in 1979. It is their country, so I accept the pinyin spelling of the people’s names, cities and everyday usage. But when it comes to spiritual terms such as chi, tai chi and the I Ching, I use the Wade Giles spellings that first appeared in 1892 and were the vehicle for the great flowering of Western interest in Chinese religion and philosophy during the 20th century. The great Western sinologists–John Blofeld, Martin Palmer, Richard Wilhelm and many others–made Taoism a world religion. (Or, for you diehards who refuse to acknowledge it as a religion, a set of values that belong to the world.) I doubt that the Chinese government has any investment in these ideas, so I prefer to discuss them using the terms by which I first learned to think about them. This extends to some historical–even mythical–figures. For me, the author of the “Tao te Ching” will always be Lao-tzu, not Laozi, just as Chuang Tzu will never be Zhuangzi.This strategy may seem emotional and illogical — even indefensible — but then I don’t mind that characterization.
    Here’s a link to an interesting list showing how pinyin and Wade-Giles match up: . .
    http://taoism.about.com/od/glossaryoftaoistterm1/a/Glossary-Of-Common-Daoist-Taoist-Terms.htm

    Karl Thunemann

  2. karlthunemann

    I like this post. I really do. But as a sometime journalist and a self-styled Taoist, I take exception to using a catchy slogan such as “Tao of Journalism” without considering its implications. Anyone who has waded through a dozen books whose titles begin with The Tao of … would eventually realize that the Tao has little to do with transparency. It is more about mystery and indirection. As for openness, the Tao is all about that, but not in the sense being espoused here for journalism. The Tao is open in the sense that you’re welcome to come in, look around, learn a few mantras and see if you can discover what this thing called chi is all about.
    And as for accountability, whoa Nellie! Accountability is a Confucian value. Confucians trained people for civil service in ancient China. For them accountability was everything. Taoists did not trouble themselves with accountability. Instead, they retreated to the woodlands, where they laughed at the Confucians and entertained visions of world whose existence was not tied to accountability.
    I say, let us applaud journalists for striving to be transparent, open and accountable. And let’s applaud this blogger for her soul-searching approach to hold herself accountable to values. But let’s not pretend that these goals have anything to do with the Tao. If the Tao had an ego, it would take offense.
    And another thing: As the blogger and other journalists seem so committed to pinyin spelling of Chinese names and concepts, one would expect them to be talking about the Dao of journalism.

    • Thanks, Karl. I like your comment better than my post. Sigh. But I’m keeping my Tao of Journalism Pledge — the pledge itself and the logo.

      • Hmmm….So, Karl, I woke up thinking about the meaning of “tao” (or “dao,” which is indeed the current pinyin spelling and the spelling I would use) and about your comment and my reply. I thought “tao” (or “dao”) meant that although circumstances might change, there was still some universal truth threading its way through. Clearly I need to learn more — and, come Monday, I need to find out what the Washington News Council folks’ thinking is.

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