10 May 2005

A Response - On Blog Ethics

Mr. Cohen invites a debate on Blog Ethics. The following is a response to his nearly responsible NY Times May 8, 2005 article.

The Latest Rumbling in the Blogosphere: Questions About Ethics - By Adam Cohen

Mr. Cohen,

I am probably not quite as outraged over your article as some of my fellow bloggers are. However, in order to elevate your piece to the standard held by serious bloggers of news and commentary, I will have to offer a few suggestions and corrections.

Bloggers would like the MSM to be within ear shot of the truth, Mr. Cohen. Preferably, with some measure of regularity. It is quite a stretch to call that "demonizing". I find it fascinating that you detail the lack of accountability and ethics among serious bloggers--the majority of whom have taken on the daunting task of holding the MSM to a respectable level of accountability. Now, that is quite a puzzle. Perhaps your next piece could expand on that dynamic.

Being held accountable does not worry us. No outside power could be any harder on us that we are on each other. Our fellow bloggers and our readers, in free and resounding voice, call us to the mat all the time. But if a blogger calls you to the mat; out-scoops you; points out your lack of coverage on a particular issue; or opposes your unsubstantiated remarks, that is unethical? That is an interesting bar you have set for us, Mr. Cohen.

It is important to note that bloggers are not salaried writers. That alone absolutely does eliminate some bias. The MSM is paid to further the voice of those who "own" them. We are not afraid of accountability, we would just be unwilling to become wrapped up in the ties that bind the MSM, whose members (even the brilliant ones) are paid to produce what they are expected to put out.

It is entirely possible that Bloggers right now are the best and most reliable source for progressive news and commentary. Don't misinterpret "progressive". I don't mean fringe, extreme or irresponsible. My use of "progressive" is meant to describe a new forum for open discussion of news and commentary in a "media" format.

You have a "code" and we do not. The MSM has played a huge role in ushering in the greater visibility of blogs. That does beg the question why, doesn't it? Perhaps the media powers that be thought to themselves... "We need to look at this. There has to be some readership market share floating around out there, something we have not tapped into that they have. And frankly, we are not getting by with as much as we used to. Let's cast a strong light on it, and then tell everyone how they can't trust it." Since this has become one of the MSM's latest agenda items, you clearly have a choice to make. If we are not journalists, then keep gobbling up our content at no cost to you and stop complaining. We will maintain our own personal code and remain answerable to a very sharp global audience of fellow bloggers and readers. If you insist bloggers comply with an institutionalized code of ethics, then let us talk as reasonable people do and develop a reasonable code, applicable to the medium we use and I am sure blog owners who define their blogs as news or commentary will be happy to comply. It is a trade off though. With that, we will clip a media tag on our monitors and we are all on equal footing.


Ken Grandlund said...

It is not uncommon for those who once held a monopoly to view newcomers with derision.

In my opinion, most bloggers are writing from an editorial point of view. Like MSM opinion writers, blog authors use real quotes, data, or other information to bolster their own arguments. In this vein, it becomes incumbent upon the reader to distinguish between "news" and "opinion." The difference supposedly being that news is an unbiased account of the events of the day and opinion is an interpretation of those events from a particular point of view.

If the MSM had not succombed to our more capitalistic natures and instead had remained bearers of "news" their credibility would not be so much in question. But the atmosphere of consolidation, market-driven information, and uncritical investigation has caused their decline as they become less credible to discerning readers/viewers/listeners.

Bloggers, MSM writers, and anyone else who communicates must all be aware of the potential impact of their words. But, more importantly, readers must be responsible for not accepting everything they read at face value without doing a little comparison of their own. This goes for blogs and MSM alike.

Random Personae said...

The artical is no longer available from the New York Times unless a fee is paid. Thank you, MSM.

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