I didn’t get much reading done this week, which is too bad because I got two books from inter-library loan (The Magicians by Lev Grossman and Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt) that I only have 14 days to read! Gah!
Instead of reading, I’ve been working on a mid-term paper about the ethics of objectivity and transparency for bloggers. It’s a short-ish paper, but it’s leading to a much longer paper that’s going to look at these issues for book bloggers in context of the FTC disclosure guidelines. Don’t worry, I’ll be sharing a lot more about that soon.
During all my reading and research, I came across a number of quotes about the relationship between bloggers and journalists that I thought I could share and see what you all think. This first one is from page 133 of Cecelia Friend and Jane B. Singer’s 2007 book Online Journalism Ethics:
So are bloggers journalists, and are their ethics interchangeable? No, they are different – but complementary rather than contradictory. Indeed, the relationship can best be described as symbiotic. Interconnected blogs and their readers form a community that discusses, dissects, and extends the stories created y mainstream media, as well as producing its own commentary, fact-checking, and grassroots reporting. The mainstream media in turn feed upon this material, developing it as a pool of tips, sources, and story ideas – not to mention bringing blogs and the issues raised by bloggers to the public’s attention by covering it as newsworthy.
I really like that summary of the relationship between bloggers and mainstream journalism, but that might just be because it’s complimentary to both groups and I consider myself to be part of both groups. What do you think of it?
Another study I read (“Interactivity and Prioritizing the Human: A Code of Blogging Ethics” by Martin Kuhn) surveyed 30 mainstream political bloggers to see how they felt about ethics and issues of transparency and accountability. The study asked who bloggers considered to be the stakeholders in their blogging, and found:
When bloggers considered their own blog, they did not discuss effects outside of their immediate social circles. However, when discussing blogs in the aggregate, bloggers framed blogs as vehicles for social change, a challenge to our mainstream media, and tools that can be leveraged for political and social gain. Thus, the primary stakeholder in a functioning blogosphere, one that fosters authentic human communication, group formation, and community building, is no less than society itself. Viewed from this perspective, bloggers have a duty to be socially responsible, similar to that of communicators in the traditional media, which can be operationalized by honoring a duty to prioritize the human and interactivity in blogging.
Basically, all that’s arguing is that bloggers can’t get away with thinking of their blogs as a singular entity, not tied to any other groups or communities or without consequences. If blogs as a whole are impacting mainstream journalism and society at large, then I think this quote suggests there needs to be some sort of larger ethic or set of ethics at work as bloggers join the conversation.
But there are many, many logistical and philosophical questions that go into the idea of creating a blogging code of ethics. Is it needed? Does a code go against how blogging works and is designed? Who is responsible for creating and/or enforcing a code of ethics? And would a blogging code of ethics look the same or different from the codes of ethics already in place for mainstream journalists?
I’ve really no idea, but since I’m writing a paper (or, at this moment avoiding a paper) on some of those issues I suppose I should come up with something 🙂