Friday, March 11, 2005
More on Blogging and Journalism
Two more items worth considering.
Harvard's cyber.law site is the primary repository for the documentation of a conference on this topic. A summary is provided by Rebecca MacKinnon.
By the end of a day and a half of discussion, the following "take-aways" emerged:This is a distillation of a day and a half's work and several lengthy documents. I'll pass on studying their lengthy contents in detail.
* Relationships between local newspapers and local blogger communities. One example is the close relationship between the Greensboro News & Record and community blogging site, "Greensboro 101" (See Session 1)
- The new emerging media ecosystem has room for citizens' media like blogs and professional news organizations. There will be tensions, but they'll complement and feed off each other, often working together. (See Session 1 and Jay Rosen's essay in Appendix 1a)
- The acts of "blogging" and "journalism" are different, although they do intersect. While some blogging is journalism, much of it isn't and doesn't aim to be. Both serve different and valuable functions within the new evolving media ecosystem. (This theme recurred and was reinforced in all sessions.)
- Ethics and credibility are key, but intangible. There are no clear answers about how credibility is won, lost, or retained – for mainstream media or bloggers. It's impossible and undesirable for anybody to set "ethical standards" for bloggers, but is clear that certain principles will make one more likely to achieve high credibility. Transparency is a key part but isn't enough. It also depends on a relationship of trust that is cultivated between the media organization or blog and the people it aims to serve. (See Session 3 and Bill Mitchell's paper in Appendix 1b)
- Many media organizations now see blogging – or the use of some form of participatory citizens' media – as a way to build loyalty, trust, and preserve credibility. They are still experimenting with ways to do that. Examples include:
* News organizations such as MSNBC are starting their own blogs within their own websites, some written by their own journalists and some by guest bloggers. (See sessions 3 and 4)
* Some news organizations such as Minessota Public Radio are working to build databases and communication systems in order to tap the expertise of audience members who do not blog, but who would like to help with stories.
Ellen Dana Nagler at The Blogging of the President: 2004 crafted a well-considered article, Journalists 'R' Us, and I've extracted these gems:
So far the "Are we journalists" debate has gone on pretty much among ourselves. Now, in addition to the exposure we've had in the MSM, we will have (or won't have; it depends on whom you read and believe) onerous federal election finance rules to contend with.To repeat myself, we political bloggers typically patronize a particular group, uncontrolled by standards of behavior and unsupervised by editors or managers that must answer in turn to other superiors. Without the standards and second pair of eyes questioning and verifying, we are largely the equivalent of yellow journalism.
... [B]loggers themselves are conflicted about self-identification with the journalistic craft, disdainful as we are of the way it is so often practiced today.
... Those of us who report on, or editorialize about, or do analysis of economic, electoral, legislative, media or cultural affairs, using a blog as our publication medium, are doing the work of journalists.
... I can quite understand journalists in traditional media asserting that bloggers are not of their ilk. They must wonder, and worry, that suddenly we own as much ink as they do, without having paid for it nearly as much as they did. And that a growing audience increasingly turns to us to hold them to account.
But I cannot understand why we resist the very mandate we've chosen for ourselves. More and more we are asking for journalistic privileges, but to be deserving of them, we need to embrace the responsibilities that come with them.
... From the outset of my blogging career, I've been perfectly happy to impose upon myself, where applicable, the generally accepted best practices of traditional journalism — to make every effort to report accurately, to make proper attribution, to check facts, to authenticate and evaluate sources, to exercise judgment (not, as in the absurd world of unweighed, "he said, she said," so-called objective reporting, to pretend to have none), to make my biases transparent, and most certainly to disclose conflicts of interest. In essence I make a good-faith endorsement of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Why not? If that's the price for credibility, well, it's a price I'm paying anyway, because I want to pay it. The rules come naturally.