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Sunday, May 8, 2005
A Lame Attempt at Criticism of the Blogosphere
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:12 pm

Via the NYT: The Latest Rumbling in the Blogosphere: Questions About Ethics

Bloggers often invoke these journalistic standards in criticizing the MSM, and insist on harsh punishment when they are violated. The blogs that demanded Dan Rather’s ouster accused him of old-school offenses: not sufficiently checking the facts about President Bush’s National Guard service, refusing to admit and correct errors, and having undisclosed political views that shaded the journalism. Eason Jordan, CNN’s chief news executive, resigned this year after a blogmob attacked him for a reported statement at the World Economic Forum at Davos that the military had aimed at journalists in Iraq and killed 12 of them. Their complaint was even more basic than in Mr. Rather’s case: they were upset that Mr. Jordan said something they believed to be untrue.

But Mr. Rather’s and Mr. Jordan’s misdeeds would most likely not have landed them in trouble in the world of bloggers, where few rules apply. Many bloggers make little effort to check their information, and think nothing of posting a personal attack without calling the target first - or calling the target at all. They rarely have procedures for running a correction.

This is, of course, patently ridiculous. If a major blogger had circulated false documents to damage either the Kerry or Bush campaigns in a manner similar to Rather, there is no doubt that they would have suffered the same kind of scrutiny and criticism (had a minor blogger done it, no one would have noticed-maybe. Of course, had a cable access tv show in Austin, TX aired the fake TANG documents, I am guessing they wouldn’t have gotten much scrutiny, either).

The Eason Jordan situation is harder to analogize, because there is no one to “fire” a blogger who made such comments, except in terms of losing readership.

And in terms of corrections: on balance, bloggers’ corrections are easier to see than those of major papers. If I find an error I usually go back and correct it within the post in question, and mark said correction with bold “Updates” and strikethroughs. Does the NYT go back into its archives and makes actual changes in the text that clearly show a corrected error? I think not.

Another blogger technique in issuing corrections is to post a new story-which is the same thing as the NYT placing their corrections on the front page-something that they aren’t prone to doing.

In terms of myself, I approach this enterprise the same way I approach my academic work: I seek to make only substantiated statements, noting appropriate references when necessary. And if I realize a mistake has been made, I note it. That may not be an institutionalized ethics codes and correction policy, but since my readers can call me on the carpet within minutes of a post, it would seem that I have the ability to be at least as responsible about such matters as the NYT, despite Cohen’s argument that somehow blogs operate at a lower standard.

As Ann Althouse rightly notes

The journalistic code didn’t keep Jordan and Rather in line. It was the bloggers, invoking their own standards — not a code but an evolving culture — that called them to account. Any bloggers with any kind of high profile will be similarly called to account if they violate the blogosphere’s cultural norms. And Jordan and Rather can take up blogging any minute they want. Our practice is open to anyone who wants to join.

The difference is, there’s no pedestal to jump right on top of and have an instant readership as there is when you’re hired on by mainstream media. We only have the readership we can attract with the strength of our own writing. We have to build that readership and keep it with constant writing. No one would ever be in a position to invoke a rule and fire us. It’s all a matter of whether the readers stay or go. In a sense, we’re constantly getting hired and fired in tiny increments as individuals decide whether or not to click to our sites one more time.

Indeed.

Mostly, the Cohen piece strikes me as an attempt by a member of the MSM to try and put bloggers “in their place”-but without much to work with.

Update: Ann links to Citizen Z who correctly questions part of Cohen’s basic thesis and links to others commenting on the piece.

Update 2: Some minor typos corrected above: the lack of an “of” in the title, the lack of an “e” in “strikethoughs” and the replacement of “ita” with “its”.

Filed under: Blogging, MSM | |Send TrackBack

Ace of Spades HQ linked with The MSM Wants Bloggers To Hold Themselves to the High Standards of Ethics To Which They Hold Themselves

1 Comment »

  1. The MSM Wants Bloggers To Hold Themselves to the High Standards of Ethics To Which They Hold Themselves
    Har, har. Everyone’s linking this gaseous MSM-endorsed attack on the purported lack of ethics of bloggers, so I will too. First point: This guy’s an idiot. Second point: It is true that bloggers do not engage in some of the…

    Trackback by Ace of Spades HQ — Monday, May 9, 2005 @ 12:04 pm

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