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.
A 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.