Cross-posted from dailykos
In today’s NY Times (free registration requireed) Adam Cohen, writing as an editorial observer, has a piece entitled The Latest Rumbling in the Blogosphere: Questions About Ethics.  In his opening sentence he gives due credit to blogs:

Bloggers like to demonize the MSM (that’s Mainstream Media), but it is increasingly hard to think of the largest news blogs as being outside the mainstream.

He then goes on to credit a number of blogs with getting results, although listing Drudge in the same paragraph as dailykos and Joshua Micah Marshall seems to me to b e a strained attempt at political balance.

It is worth the time to examine what he has to offer.  Since I so no other diary addressing this at the time I began to write this deiary, I will do so below the fold.

The paragraph which lays out the purpose of the op ed is the third, which I quote in its entirety:

The thing about influence is that, as bloggers well know, it is only a matter of time before people start trying to hold you accountable. Bloggers are so used to thinking of themselves as outsiders, and watchdogs of the LSM (that’s Lame Stream Media), that many have given little thought to what ethical rules should apply in their online world. Some insist that they do not need journalistic ethics because they are not journalists, but rather activists, or humorists, or something else entirely. But more bloggers, and blog readers, are starting to ask whether at least the most prominent blogs with the highest traffic shouldn’t hold themselves to the same high standards to which they hold other media.

Cohen goes on to discuss the traditional ethics of news media, including avoiding even the appearance of conflicts of interest, and of offering corrections when mistakes are discovered.  He notes that bloggers often call the mainstream media to account for violation of such ethics.  Here it is worth noting that the two examples he offers are from the right wing blogs — going after Dan Rather and Eason Jordan.  

Cohen then goes on to raise the issue about applying similar standards to bloggers.  But now his examples are not about right wing bloggers, even though one could argue some of the most egregious examples are things such aas the Thune Bloggers, or the obvious connection between certain groups and political opreratives ont he right and people like Hindrocker.  Read what he offers:

But Mr. Rather’s and Mr. Jordan’s misdeeds would most likely not have landed them in trouble in the world of bloggers, where few rules apply. Many bloggers make little effort to check their information, and think nothing of posting a personal attack without calling the target first – or calling the target at all. They rarely have procedures for running a correction. The wall between their editorial content and advertising is often nonexistent. (Wonkette, a witty and well-read Washington blog, posts a weekly shout-out inside its editorial text to its advertisers, including partisan ones like And bloggers rarely disclose whether they are receiving money from the people or causes they write about.


Here I note that the final sentence of the paragraph just quoted lacks specifics, and seems itnended to point at Kos and Jerome, even though as I noted he could have used the specific example of the Thune bloggers.

Cohen then goes on to note that there are attempts among bloggers to change the status quo, with calls for attempts at ethical standards, citing of the Media Center of the American Press Institute as one example.   If you follow the link, you will find the first story listed is about kos blogging for The Guardian.  Cohen also quotes Wonkette as noting that blogs are still a young meidum and things will have to be worked out.

Let me offer Cohen’s final brief paragraph before embarking on a few comments of my own:

Bloggers may need to institutionalize ethics policies to avoid charges of hypocrisy. But the real reason for an ethical upgrade is that it is the right way to do journalism, online or offline. As blogs grow in readers and influence, bloggers should realize that if they want to reform the American media, that is going to have to include reforming themselves.

Okay, enough of Cohen, now some observations from Teacherken.  First, codes of ethics have to a large degree become meaningless.  let’s look at various traditional media.  The Washington Times has been known to spike stories critical of the interests of its owner, Rev Moon —  this frequently occurred early in its existence, most famously when it pulled the movie review critical of “Inchon” which was produced and financed by rev Moon.  The first publisher, James Whelan, quit because of the political interference with the news operation.  I could go on aboujt that paper, but I won’t bore you with the minutiae.  It is true that other major papers have covered some of this, just as the Washington Times has delighted in stories which exposed the peccadilloes of its more mainstream (since there are hardly any liberal papers any more) competition.  

In the case of broacast media, over the air and cable, it is an issue that people here at dailykos have discussed numerous times and numerous ways.  The lack of ethics, of balance, the infrequency of corrections is something about which he have often commented.  One can clearly argue that the diversity of views in the blogosphere offers a far more responsive means of correction and of challenging assertions that may be false than one sees either in broadcast or print outlets.  And lest an yone argue that many papers now have public editors and ombudsmen, the experiences that more than a few her have posted about their attempts to deal with such as such major papers as the NY Times and the Washington Post show the problems of relying upon that as a means of attempting to impose a standard of ethical behavior.

I am not  arguing for an ethics free environment.  I do not believe that a code of conduct is universally applicable in the blogosphere.   For one thing, Joshua Micah Marshalll has a site in which there is a reason for direct responsibility, since he does not allow comments, except those he chooses to post.  In open blogs such as dailykos, it is the ability of other posters to challenge, correct, and rate that provides a mechanism that in some ways is far more reponsive than anything we have seen from the socalled MSM.  I reacted particularly negatively to the comments about Wonkette’s advertising — many major newspapers and magazines have been known to offer key advertising spots in issues that deal with those advertisers — gee, how about a special education review in which the places being covered — schools and colleges — also run ads, sometimes with the ad for a paritcular place occuring on ro facing the page where there is a positive “story” about that institution?  Or what about publishers who refuse to run news stories critical of major advertisers, or broadcast outlets that operate similarly?  How about the fact that increasingly the conglomerates that own broadcast and print outlets also have other business interests that they seek to protect from adverse news coverage?  Is this not at least the appearance of a conflict of interest?

Or to take an even more egregious example — we have people who ostensibly cover the news but simultaneously offer opinion pieces.  What are the ethical issues of someone like David Broder appearing in the same edition of the Washington Post in both capacities?  Or what does it say that for far too many of our supposed news reporters or even columnists that they earn far more money from their other print endeavors (books) or their appearances on tv (indirectly — that gives them visibility through which they get the speaking engagements at $10,000 a pop and up).

I think that disclosure is the primary ethical requirement in the blogosphere.  Thus even though I have already noted my ongoing relationship with Don Beyer and my interest in helping Nick Lampson, I need to acknowledge that a casual reader of an individual comment or diary here at dailykos or elsewhere may not ahve seen those.  Thus, do I have a responsibility to note that each time I comment about either of these politicians?  Perhpas not for every comment, but clearly when I write diaries I have some responsibility for disclosure.  I would think that my name, teacherken, makes clear that I have a role in education when I do one of my frequent diaries on that subject.  Do I ahve a further responsibility, beyond my screen name, to inform the casual reader.  On my own blog, no, because I make clear at the head of the blog that I am a teacher, and that thes are my personal reflections.   Do I have a greater responsibility here at dailykos?  Or does the open nature of this site, with the ability of others to call me to account sufficiently address that and other ethical issues?

As a teacher (there — I did acknowledge my role) I often tell my students that they need to be careful in their citation of facts.  If they are presenting a reader or a listener with something which challenges that person’s prior beliefs or understandings, the making of a factual error lets that person avoid the confrontation with the larger truth.  I know that I cancelled my own subscription to The Economist years ago after they kept citing Sen. Fritz Hollings, then a candidate for president, for gosh sakes, as being from NORTH Carolina.  When I see really sloppy errors on things about which I do know, I am unlikely to accept interpretations and arguments about things for which I have less knowledge.

Okay, enough from me.   How about a dialog on what the ethcial standards should be for bloggers, how they might vary depending on the type of blog?  What do kossacks think?  I look forward to the responses of others, before this diary scrolls into oblivion.

0 0 votes
Article Rating