Corante

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Dana Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist for over 25 years and has covered the online world professionally since 1985. He founded the "Interactive Age Daily" for CMP Media, and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and dozens of other publications over the years.
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October 19, 2005

Is the Blogosphere Really Better?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The question is serious.

I have seen a ton of blogs lately which have all the pretentiousness, all the assumed (rather than earned) authority, and all the tone-deafness to reality of anything in the so-called Main Stream Media they're criticizing.

We live in a time of immense selfishness, and hollow ethics. This is true in both parties. This is also true in all media -- including the blogosphere.

Just because reporting is "open source" does not mean you believe all sources. It means you take responsibility, as part of the conversation.

An example follows.

peachpundit.gifA blogger here in Georgia named Erick Erickson, for instance, is setting himself up as a mini-O'Reilly, helping run the conservative Redstate group blog and building his own PeachPundit into something quite similar. (He also runs his own eponymous site.)

He claims to be objective, but he's just a political operative, and a very low-level one at that.

He's also a bully. Rather than just expel a poster he didn't like, Erickson traced the person's IP address through his logs to a state computer and issued a direct, personal threat.

This kind of intimidation is what I expect out of a petty potentate, but it's par for the course in the blogosphere. I see the same bloviation, the same ego-tripping, and the same degree of untruthfulness among so-called "high-end" bloggers that I get in the daily paper. It's no worse, but no better.

How are we to make certain that the growth of the blogosphere doesn't become what its critics charge it to be, a rush to the bottom in which ethics are further eroded and neither heat nor light are shed on the real problems of the day -- a lack of restraint, selfishness, and hypocrisy being near the top of the list?

How do we reward ethical behavior online and learn to shun the merely vindictive and destructive?

I know how Corante does it. They do it by carefully selecting who will write for them, and by disciplining those who cross the line. That's brand-building. I applaud it.

But what are the rest of you lot doing?

This is not just a question for publishers or editors, by the way. It's also a question for readers. What you choose to read regularly, what you choose to believe, who you invest credibility in, goes a long way toward determining what kind of medium this will be. Blogger groups like the so-called Media Bloggers Association reject the idea of an enforceable code-of-ethics for the blogosphere. So it really is up to you.

I try to live by a high standard. I try to live as though everything I say or do might be on the TV news. Sometimes I fall short. I accept it, take the hit, and try to do better. This is what I was taught to do through nearly 30 years as a professional journalist.

But I know most don't do that. Many prefer to be what some call "pajamadeen," holy warriors with no ethics, hiding behind their keyboards, maybe in their pajamas, bitching-and-moaning about everything and seldom making sense. A day in that blogosphere can read like a day spent in an insane asylum. Choose your poison.

It's up to you who you read, who you believe, and what you respond to. There are no rules here, other than your own personal ethics, to determine what will float to the top of the blogosophere, and what will fall to the bottom.

Think about that the next time you open your browser. You're in charge. It's a high responsibility.

End of rant.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | ethics | personal


COMMENTS

1. Robert Cox on October 20, 2005 11:15 AM writes...

Dana,

Given your professed concern over the MBA "rejecting" an ethics policy for bloggers, I would be fascinated to hear more about your "so-called" high standard and how, if you were dictator for a day, you would apply the same high standard you supposedly apply to yourself to other members of the Media Bloggers Association.

Would your policy include some enforcement mechanism for bloggers who make false or inaccurate statements?

For example, the organization to which you refer in your post is not the "so-called" Media Bloggers Association. That is actually the name of the organization. The MBA is incorporated in the state of Delaware, we have a web site, business cards...we even have little orange hats.

Would your policy include tough penalties for bloggers for failing to be transparent to the readership?

For example, in this post you fail to mention that you are, in fact, a member of the Media Bloggers Association yourself - and a rather vocal one (internally and externally). You also fail to mention that you were encouraged by me, and invited by JD Lasica, to be on what was dubbed the "standards and practices" committee to consider a variety of policy questions raised by members such as a mission statement, ethics policy, statement of values, and all related issues. You were also encouraged, by me, and invited by James Joyner, to be on the membership committee to both develop membership requirements, rules, codes of conduct, to consider disciplinary action when warranted, to vet new member applications and to formally nominate new members to the board for membership. You were also, briefly a member of the MBA News committee.

Would your policy require bloggers to be truthful?

For example, you claim that the MBA rejected an enforceable code-of-ethics for the blogosphere yet the MBA did no such thing.

Setting aside the absurd notion that anyone could create an enforceable code-of-ethics for the entire blogosphere, it is my recollection that you have quit, in short order, every "job" you accepted within the MBA when you deemed it not sufficiently "worthy" of your time or when other members did not accede to your every demand. Had you shown even the slightest degree of patience and remained on the "standards and practices" committee you might have known that the document submitted by JD Lasica was NOT APPROVED at the August board meeting; nothing regarding ethics was accepted or rejected by the MBA. The motion to approve the recommendations was tabled, the document sent back to committee and is on the agenda for review at the next board meeting in November. If you had stayed on the committee you would be part of the group that is still considering these issues. Instead you tossed a fit, stormed off and began posted half-truths and outright lies on your blog.

Is this the "high standard" you wish to see in place at the MBA? Geez...no wonder you couldn't convince the committee of your wisdom.

Given this, your previous false or misleading statements about the MBA and your behavior as a member of the MBA, there is no small irony in your characterization of Erick Erickson as a "bully" and " petty potentate". In the past you have accused members of the MBA of being "Stalin" or "a dictator", including me.. Perhaps this suggests a pattern.

If it is true what they say - that what bothers us most about the behavior of others (real or imagined) is that it reflects what we do not like about ourselves - it might explain a lot of the anger you have towards me and the MBA.

Bully? ...if the shoe fits...

PS, if you don't like this comment please do not repeat your past performance by calling me at home and launching in to another vituperative, profanity-laced tirade. I have young children at home and it is just not appropriate. I suggest you just "sleep this one off" and see how the world looks in the morning.

Permalink to Comment

2. Erni Chesney on October 20, 2005 01:20 PM writes...

Well, I think that about says it all. Do remember, Mr. Blankenhorn, what you say can and will come back to haunt you. And if you do not police your own words for integrity, they will most certainly bite you on the butt. I think you will find that you're likely 'on record' with the people you so callously defame here ... that's the problem with blogs and online commentary, even if you delete it later, someone may have saved it. It's on record.

Of course the Mainstream media seems to have forgotten that themsleves, of late. While recording information does not make it true, what's said is said, and liars pay a penalty to hell.

Permalink to Comment

3. Erick Erickson on October 20, 2005 04:46 PM writes...

While I appreciate the concern and laughed at the invective, the facts of the particular case were clear. Someone was attempting to use the blog as a place to accuse certain named state legislators and appointed persons of visiting brothels in Atlanta. The email sent to the purported account of the individual bounced, but we continued to receive repeated attempts at posting that comment.

My post stopped the activity. The reader response was positive and several elected officials on both sides of the aisle sent nice notes appreciating that we have some integrity in commenting and do not let that type of mudslinging exist on the site.

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