Wednesday, September 20, 2006

This blog is not fact checked

I'm frustrated by Blood's Weblog Ethics. My frustration stems from a number of her individual points as well as the piece as a whole.

On the whole the first thing that came to my mind in reading both her piece and that of Karen Schneider was that they're missing the point. Blogs are about speed, indavidual preference and, as is mentioned all to often, conversation. Are they about fact checked information, written with the lofty goal of unbias dissemination to the public, no! To insist that bloggers adhere to some code of ethics, particularly one constructed as a sort of journalism ethic light, is to eliminate the form altogether. A blogger that would painstaking conform to the code Blood describes ceases to be a blogger and instead becomes a underpaid journalist with low ethical standards. Perhaps I'm wrong in this, and I can say for certain that my information has not been fact checked, but no one ever seriously suggested that newsletter publishers back in the early days of desktop publishing adhere to a common code, a blog is no different. Blood and others confuse the issue by suggesting blogging is a form of journalism, when in fact its best considered a form all its own.

More specifically I have difficulty with a number of Blood's individual points. Firstly, the issue of truth and authority. Blood suggests that fact checking and the validity of a blogs assertions are the sole responsibility of the blogger, and to some extent I agree. To make a statement in full knowledge of its falsity is lying and is unquestionably unethical, not however because it was written and record on a blog, but because to make false statements in any circumstance is unethical. This is not part of my code as a blogger, but as a person. Where my difficulty arises is in her suggestion that the ultimate authority of the blog should rest in the ethical motivations of the author. This is similar to the suggestion that the imposition of a code of ethics is what insure the accuracy of the science and history we read in academic journals. This is simply not the case, the authority academic journals carry is derived from the system of peer review they employ. Similarly, any authority that blogs have or will have is derived from the system of immediate comment and feedback they employ.

While codes of ethics are positive in that they suggest that some at least are taking the form seriously, they also confuse the issue of authority. Bloggers should focus their efforts in promoting blogs on the merits of their unique systems of authority not on those of any other form and not on some ethereal notion of ethics.


kueneman said...

For me the ethics of blogging are essential -especially if you are blogging as part of your position at a library or other institution. If that is your role you have to think about the impression that you're giving on behalf of the institution. It may appear to you that ethics are a no-brainer and it's likely that you have a good sense of ethics, but there are many out there that don't think that way. (People have been fired for bad-mouthing their employers on their blogs.) And, don't forget about your future... I forget which article it was in, but future employers may check out your past blogs and hire or not hire you based on things you've said in the past. Sorry if I'm sounding rather maternalistic. (I suppose that I must also admit my bias - I was an Ethics Officer [Research] for 5 years. That probably explains my passion for the topic.)

Vicki said...

Perhaps blogs are not “written with the loft goal of unbiased dissemination to the public” but it is only fair to state a bias where it exits and acknowledge this to your readers when you can. With respect to blogs being about fact checked information I think the point here is that if you don’t know it as fact, you don’t have to throw it out and not include it in your blog, just be fair and tell the audience that the information was not confirmed fact. I think the code of ethics suggested by Blood are not written in stone and many are just plain common sense and as you state most of the notions are already a part of our own personal codes of ethics. Further, as Karen suggests below, you never know who will come across this blog and link it to you, so you need to be concerned about what you say beyond the posting moment and consider the future implications.

I agree with you in that we need to separate the notion of blogging from journalism and respect it as a form all of its own, but every form needs a scope and a guide to keep it from becoming something its not.

amanda said...

Hi Ian - I, too, am not sure I am completely comfortable with a blogging code of ethics that is so closely mirrored on a "journalism" code of ethics. However, I do believe that the actual "codes" outlined in both Blood's and Schneider's articles are good common sense tenets to follow, whether I'm writing an essay for a single person to read & grade OR for a larger audience to consume and comment upon. I think the issue is just heightened a little when it comes to talking about blogs because they are a form of broadcast in many ways, making it all the more important to be upfront with things like personal biases.