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ISOJ 2004

Published in: News & Politics
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  1. 1. Weblogs and the Search for User-Driven Ethical Models J. Richard Stevens University of Texas at Austin
  2. 2. Warblogs • Hundreds of thousands of blogs currently exist • The war on terrorism has caused an increase in the popularity of political blogs • Chris Allbritton’s foray into Iraq
  3. 3. Sean-Paul Kelley • The Agonist - published because “the media wasn’t doing a good enough job of covering the nuances of international relations.” • Plagiarized • Blogger community response mixed. • Are bloggers journalists? Do they need a code of ethics?
  4. 4. Journalism Ethics • “Journalism, like most professions, developed a set of business practices first, then endowed those practices with a set of impressive professional rationalizations, and finally proceeded to rewrite its history in ways that made the practices seem to emerge, as if through immaculate conception, from an inspiring set of professional ideals.” - W. Lance Bennett, News: The Politics of Illusion • American Journalism of first 100 years was pre-professional
  5. 5. Charles Dana, 1888 Get the news, get all the news, get nothing but the news. Copy nothing from another publication without perfect credit. Never print an interview without the knowledge and consent of the party interviewed. Never print a paid advertisement as news-matter. Let every advertisement appear as an advertisement; no sailing under false colors. Never attack the weak or defenseless, either by argument, by invective or by ridicule, unless there is some absolute public necessity for so doing. Fight for your opinions but do not believe that they contain the whole truth or the only truth. Support your party, if you have one; but do not think all the good men are in it and all the bad ones outside it. Above all, know and believe that humanity is advancing; that there is progress in human life and human affairs; and that, as sure as God lives, the future will be greater and better than the present or the past.
  6. 6. Professional Codes of 1920s • Walter Williams, “The Journalist’s Creed,” 1914 • American Society of Newspaper Editors, Canon of Ethics, 1923 • The Society of Professional Journalists, 1926 • The professional debate
  7. 7. Youngblood’s Blogging Ethics 1. Publish as fact only that which you believe to be true. 2. If material exists online, link to it when you reference it. 3. Publicly correct any misinformation. 4. Write each entry as if it could not be changed; add to, but do not rewrite or delete, any entry. 5. Disclose any conflict of interest. 6. Note questionable and biased sources.
  8. 8. Clinton/Lewisnky Scandal • Important for two reasons:  Broke and concluded on Internet  Affected traditional journalism behavior • Committee of Concerned Journalists study: Sources and attribution of statements: 2 or more named sources 1% 1 named source 25% 2 or more anonymous sources 13% 1 anonymous source 8% Reporting attributed to other media sources 12% Jouranlistic analysis 23% Journalist punditry 18%
  9. 9. Amateur Journalism? • 1999 Texas A&M Bonfire Collapse • post-it forums became a place of mourning • BUT, evolved into an “EMS leak” board • Content Managers began to moderate board and censor posts. • New relationship between audience and media?
  10. 10. “Mixed Media Culture” • Sources gaining power over journalists • Decline of gatekeeping function  The news of the day as it reaches the newspaper office is an incredible medley of fact, propaganda, rumor suspicion, clues, hopes, and fears, and the task of selecting and ordering that news is one of the truly sacred and priestly offices in a democracy. - Walter Lippmann, Liberty and the News, 1920 • Reporting culture is being overrun by argument culture
  11. 11. Conclusions • Weblogging is not synonymous with online journalism • Like journalism of the 19th Century, blogging will need a compelling reason to adopt ethical standards. • Blogging fills an important niche between consumers and professional media. • Those bloggers who desire a heightened level of credibility can learn from the examples of professional journalism outlets.
  12. 12. User-Driven Ethics • Like all other aspects of this medium, ethical consensus will have to emerge from within the community