Rebecca Blood hit the nail on the head in Weblog Ethics when she wrote, “The weblog’s greatest strength — its uncensored, unmediated, uncontrolled voice — is also its greatest weakness.” This is perhaps the most balanced and insightful perspective I’ve read on the subject of blogging thus far.
Many argue that blogging is a monumental platform for free speech and has greatly expanded the marketplace of ideas; others denounce blogs for a lack of credibility and trustworthiness. Both of these points have merit, but I tend to err on the side of the latter, especially when bloggers start calling themselves journalists.
I reiterate my rant from last week: bloggers and journalists aren’t one in the same. While journalists have ethical standards meant to ensure accuracy, fairness, and integrity of the stories they report, bloggers don’t.
They also don’t have gatekeepers and editors looking over their shoulders. In Dan Gillmor’s We The Media, First Amendment lawyer David Marburger puts it this way: “[Bloggers] are less likely to critically analyze [their] own work than an editor would be.”
Some bloggers are asking for the same privileges and protections that journalists enjoy. This relates back to another of my rants last week, about bloggers who want protection under shield laws. Blood reminds bloggers that “rights have associated responsibilities,” and urges those who want to be taken seriously to adopt a code of ethics.
Blood recommends 6 rules of conduct, but her advice for bloggers is plain and simple: If you want to be taken seriously, you must be transparent.
She says that when blogs have demonstrated integrity in their information gathering and dissemination, as well as consistency in their online conduct – people will start to listen.
While some bloggers may adhere to a code of ethics like that proposed by Blood, there are still many who do not. To me, being transparent seems like a small concession to make in order to gain credibility.