Blogging Ethics

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The power point presentation given to a class at the University of Utah in September, 2008.

The topic is fact checking and accuracy and I shared my code of ethics for blogging.

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Blogging Ethics

  1. 1. Nigel Swaby
  2. 2. Fact Checking & Accuracy Your responsibilities as a blogger
  3. 3. Why Focus on Accuracy? <ul><li>The line between journalism and blogging has grown very thin. </li></ul><ul><li>2004 was the break out year for blogging. </li></ul><ul><li>The 2004 presidential election cycle took blogging mainstream. </li></ul><ul><li>Bloggers were issued press passes to the conventions. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Bloggers Obtained Influence … officials said whoever gets credentials will have the same opportunities to cover the four-day event that journalists enjoy. &quot;We want to treat them just the same as other reporters,&quot; said Mike Liddell, the convention's director of online communications. &quot;We're even planning to do a breakfast for them the first day of the convention.&quot; The Republican Party recently decided that it will also give bloggers credentials for its convention later this summer. Washington Post 07/25/2004
  5. 5. Bloggers Became Recognized Mr. Graff, 23, may be the first blogger in the short history of the medium to be granted a daily White House pass for the specific purpose of writing a blog, or Web log. A White House spokesman said yesterday that he believed Mr. Graff was the first blogger to be given credentials. New York Times – 03/07/2005
  6. 6. Blogging Produces Results!
  7. 7. Positive… Five years of blogging has brought Jeff Ooi a measure of notoriety. His biting posts on Malaysian politics sparked police investigations. A pro-government newspaper sued him for libel. A prominent politician compared bloggers to monkeys in a lawless jungle. In January, as Malaysia braced for national elections, a new banner went up on his blog (www.jeffooi.com): Get a Blogger Into Parliament. Fueled by donations and manpower, Mr. Ooi easily defeated a ruling-party candidate to win a parliamentary seat on Penang Island. Christian Science Monitor – 8-28-08
  8. 8. Negative… The federal agency insuring bank deposits learned that it can't afford to ignore the blogs following its seizure this month of IndyMac Bank, the largest bank failure since the 1980s. &quot;The blogs were a bit out of control,&quot; Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., told the San Francisco Business Times after a speech in San Francisco this week. That's putting it mildly. Following the FDIC's takeover of IndyMac on July 11, widely followed blogs were speculating on bank runs on some of California's largest banks based on nothing more than people waiting for their branch to open or large deposits moving between financial institutions. The FDIC plans to pay closer attention to the blogosphere in the future. San Francisco Business Times – 07-21-08
  9. 9. With Influence Comes Responsibility
  10. 10. Freedom of Speech Trumps Journalism Standards Bloggers can write just about anything without suffering repercussions.
  11. 11. Housing Panic Blog <ul><li>Regularly attacks public figures in the real estate industry. </li></ul><ul><li>Writes things like: angelo mozilo is going to jail, angelo mozilo is greed, angelo mozilo is satan, angelo mozilo mortgage fraud, henry cisneros should go to jail </li></ul>
  12. 12. Thousands of Free Speech Based Blogs Exist <ul><li>They’re all over the world </li></ul>
  13. 13. Thousands of Free Speech Based Blogs Exist <ul><li>They’re all over the world </li></ul><ul><li>They cover every topic </li></ul>
  14. 14. Thousands of Free Speech Based Blogs Exist <ul><li>They’re all over the world </li></ul><ul><li>They cover every topic </li></ul><ul><li>They’re cheap and easy to set up </li></ul>
  15. 15. Thousands of Free Speech Based Blogs Exist <ul><li>They’re all over the world </li></ul><ul><li>They cover every topic </li></ul><ul><li>They’re cheap and easy to set up </li></ul><ul><li>They allow anonymity </li></ul>
  16. 16. Anonymity Will Determine Risks Taken on a Blog
  17. 17. Anonymity has its advantages…
  18. 18. But accuracy will retain credibility.
  19. 19. Calculated Risk Blog <ul><li>San Francisco Chronicle </li></ul><ul><li>New York Times </li></ul><ul><li>CNN Money </li></ul><ul><li>Seattle Post Intelligencer </li></ul><ul><li>Conde Nast – Portfolio.com </li></ul><ul><li>Business Spectator – Australia </li></ul><ul><li>MSN Money </li></ul>
  20. 20. Calculated Risk Blog Who are they? <ul><li>Calculated Risk: a senior executive, retired from a public company, with a background in investing, finance and economics. </li></ul><ul><li>Tanta: Tanta is a former bank officer and mortgage lending specialist who is currently on extended medical leave. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Non-anonymous Bloggers Must…
  22. 22. Non-anonymous Bloggers Must… Determine the purpose of their blog.
  23. 23. My purpose… <ul><li>Educate </li></ul><ul><li>Develop Business </li></ul><ul><li>Develop Contacts </li></ul><ul><li>Advertising Revenue </li></ul><ul><li>Test SEO </li></ul><ul><li>Create Book Content </li></ul>
  24. 24. Accuracy is Important Whether you’re a blogger or a journalist.
  25. 25. Journalists Get it Wrong Too… <ul><li>“ All-day loans” – Washington Post </li></ul>
  26. 26. Journalists Get it Wrong Too… <ul><li>Freddie Mac, for instance, no longer finances no-money-down mortgages, nor does it continue to buy or guarantee mortgages given to people who have failed to document their finances. Fannie Mae has withdrawn from the market for all-day loans , which are considered risky because they require less documentation than traditional prime loans. </li></ul>
  27. 27. Journalists Get it Wrong Too… <ul><li>“ Steve Jobs Obituary” – Bloomberg News </li></ul>
  28. 28. Journalists Get it Wrong Too… <ul><li>My demise has been greatly exaggerated… </li></ul>
  29. 29. A Bloggers Approach Can Determine the Level of Accuracy <ul><li>Some cut and paste mainstream media </li></ul>
  30. 30. A Bloggers Approach Can Determine the Level of Accuracy <ul><li>Some cut and paste mainstream media </li></ul><ul><li>Some cut and paste, but add commentary or insight </li></ul>
  31. 31. A Bloggers Approach Can Determine the Level of Accuracy <ul><li>Some cut and paste mainstream media </li></ul><ul><li>Some cut and paste, but add commentary or insight </li></ul><ul><li>Some write original material </li></ul>
  32. 32. Risks Bloggers Face by Publishing <ul><li>Credibility </li></ul>
  33. 33. Risks Bloggers Face by Publishing <ul><li>Credibility </li></ul><ul><li>Libel Suits </li></ul>
  34. 34. Risks Bloggers Face by Publishing <ul><li>Credibility </li></ul><ul><li>Libel Suits </li></ul><ul><li>Inaccuracy </li></ul>
  35. 35. Risks Bloggers Face by Publishing <ul><li>Credibility </li></ul><ul><li>Libel Suits </li></ul><ul><li>Inaccuracy </li></ul><ul><li>Hurting Innocent People </li></ul>
  36. 36. Bloggers Must Come Up With Their Own Set of Ethics
  37. 37. CASE STUDIES A Practical application of ethics in real life.
  38. 38. CASE STUDY Casey Serin
  39. 39. Casey Serin <ul><li>A young man who tried his hand at real estate flipping, using all the wrong methods. </li></ul>
  40. 40. Casey Serin <ul><li>A young man who tried his hand at real estate flipping, using all the wrong methods. </li></ul><ul><li>I was made aware of him through Housing Panic blog and the San Francisco Examiner. </li></ul>
  41. 41. Casey Serin <ul><li>A young man who tried his hand at real estate flipping, using all the wrong methods. </li></ul><ul><li>I was made aware of him through Housing Panic blog and the San Francisco Examiner. </li></ul><ul><li>I contacted him directly to do an interview from his perspective. </li></ul>
  42. 42. Casey Serin <ul><li>He didn’t tell me he had done an interview with USA Today. </li></ul>
  43. 43. Casey Serin <ul><li>He didn’t tell me he had done an interview with USA Today. </li></ul><ul><li>My interview series came out after he had picked up a number of critics, Serin calls haterz. </li></ul>
  44. 44. Casey Serin <ul><li>He didn’t tell me he had done an interview with USA Today. </li></ul><ul><li>My interview series came out after he had picked up a number of critics, Serin calls haterz. </li></ul><ul><li>Writing about this story relied on MSM articles and my personal contact with him. </li></ul>
  45. 45. Casey Serin – Ethical Choices <ul><li>Publishing “tips” sent to my email </li></ul>
  46. 46. Casey Serin – Ethical Choices <ul><li>Publishing “tips” sent to my email </li></ul><ul><li>Publishing private emails between Casey and myself. </li></ul>
  47. 47. Casey Serin – Ethical Choices <ul><li>Publishing “tips” sent to my email </li></ul><ul><li>Publishing private emails between Casey and myself. </li></ul><ul><li>Ultimately I chose to remove his story from my blog, but I created another one…www.donthatecasey.blogspot.com </li></ul>
  48. 48. Casey Serin – Considerations <ul><li>Traffic for a new blog </li></ul>
  49. 49. Casey Serin – Considerations <ul><li>Recognition/Prominence </li></ul><ul><li>USA Today article </li></ul><ul><li>C/net – DHC </li></ul>
  50. 50. CASE STUDY Zareh Tahmassebian
  51. 51. Zareh Tahmassebian <ul><li>A young man who tried his hand at real estate flipping and was highly successful. </li></ul>
  52. 52. Zareh Tahmassebian <ul><li>A young man who tried his hand at real estate flipping and was highly successful. </li></ul><ul><li>When the bottom dropped out in Las Vegas, he moved on to Phoenix. </li></ul>
  53. 53. Zareh Tahmassebian <ul><li>A young man who tried his hand at real estate flipping and was highly successful. </li></ul><ul><li>When the bottom dropped out in Las Vegas, he moved on to Phoenix. </li></ul><ul><li>Profiled in Fortune magazine, I was jealous reading about him. </li></ul>
  54. 54. Zareh Tahmassebian <ul><li>I had a hard time figuring out how he did it. </li></ul>
  55. 55. Zareh Tahmassebian <ul><li>I had a hard time figuring out how he did it. </li></ul><ul><li>I wrote a piece about him using existing articles and public records concerning his real estate related licenses. </li></ul>
  56. 56. Zareh Tahmassebian <ul><li>I had a hard time figuring out how he did it. </li></ul><ul><li>I wrote a piece about him using existing articles and public records concerning his real estate related licenses. </li></ul><ul><li>A few months later, I got a private phone call from a burned investor. </li></ul>
  57. 57. Zareh Tahmassebian – Ethical Choices <ul><li>Publishing unsubstantiated information to get a “scoop” on the MSM. </li></ul>
  58. 58. Zareh Tahmassebian – Considerations <ul><li>Protecting the subject from a bitter ex-business partner. </li></ul>
  59. 59. Zareh Tahmassebian – Considerations <ul><li>Protecting the subject from a bitter ex-business partner. </li></ul><ul><li>The source didn’t want to go after him publicly. </li></ul>
  60. 60. Zareh Tahmassebian – Considerations <ul><li>Protecting the subject from a bitter ex-business partner. </li></ul><ul><li>The source didn’t want to go after him publicly. </li></ul><ul><li>I didn’t have enough information to get a second source like public records for the notice of default. </li></ul>
  61. 61. Zareh Tahmassebian – Considerations <ul><li>Eventually, the Arizona Republic “broke” the story. </li></ul>
  62. 62. CASE STUDY Riverbottoms Scandal
  63. 63. Riverbottoms Scandal <ul><li>A mortgage fraud scheme that used industry insiders to defraud lenders, individuals and Utah County of millions of dollars. </li></ul>
  64. 64. Riverbottoms Scandal <ul><li>A mortgage fraud scheme that used industry insiders to defraud lenders, individuals and Utah County of millions of dollars. </li></ul><ul><li>It probably wouldn’t made the news, except for this guy… </li></ul>
  65. 65. Riverbottoms Scandal – Dave Fox
  66. 66. Riverbottoms Scandal <ul><li>A mortgage fraud scheme that used industry insiders to defraud lenders, individuals and Utah County of millions of dollars. </li></ul><ul><li>It probably wouldn’t made the news, except for Dave Fox </li></ul><ul><li>I covered it using MSM reports. </li></ul>
  67. 67. Riverbottoms Scandal <ul><li>When more information about the defendants became available, I did public records and license searches to provide more information. </li></ul>
  68. 68. Riverbottoms Scandal <ul><li>When more information about the defendants became available, I did public records and license searches to provide more information. </li></ul><ul><li>The accused ringleader made my job easy because he had a criminal past. </li></ul>
  69. 69. Riverbottoms Scandal – Brad Kitchen
  70. 70. Riverbottoms Scandal <ul><li>After all the names were revealed and I published a story about them, a source close to the case contacted me. </li></ul>
  71. 71. Riverbottoms Scandal <ul><li>After all the names were revealed and I published a story about them, a source close to the case contacted me. </li></ul><ul><li>Through this source, I was able to get inside information about some of the defendants. </li></ul>
  72. 72. Riverbottoms Scandal <ul><li>After all the names were revealed and I published a story about them, a source close to the case contacted me. </li></ul><ul><li>Through this source, I was able to get inside information about some of the defendants. </li></ul><ul><li>An unindicted co-conspirator was implicated. </li></ul>
  73. 73. Riverbottoms Scandal <ul><li>Later, a potential victim of Brad Kitchen contacted me and I shared their story. </li></ul>
  74. 74. Riverbottoms Scandal – Ethical Choices <ul><li>Publishing unsubstantiated information to get a “scoop” on the MSM. </li></ul>
  75. 75. Riverbottoms Scandal – Considerations <ul><li>Publishing information that could hurt a real person. </li></ul>
  76. 76. Riverbottoms Scandal – Considerations <ul><li>Publishing information that could hurt a real person. </li></ul><ul><li>Not reporting information in an active legal case. </li></ul>
  77. 77. Riverbottoms Scandal – Considerations <ul><li>Publishing information that could hurt a real person. </li></ul><ul><li>Not reporting information in an active legal case. </li></ul><ul><li>Violating the ethics of my State license. </li></ul>
  78. 78. Riverbottoms Scandal – Solutions <ul><li>After receiving a second email from a different source, I published information about Brad Kitchen I believed to be true. </li></ul>
  79. 79. Riverbottoms Scandal – Solutions <ul><li>After receiving a second email from a different source, I published information about Brad Kitchen I believed to be true. </li></ul><ul><li>I published a story about the co-conspirator, but left out their name. </li></ul>
  80. 80. Riverbottoms Scandal – Solutions <ul><li>After receiving a second email from a different source, I published information about Brad Kitchen I believed to be true. </li></ul><ul><li>I published a story about the co-conspirator, but left out their name. </li></ul><ul><li>I looked up the unindicted co-conspirator and forwarded their information to Federal prosecutors. </li></ul>
  81. 81. Conclusions Bloggers must come up with a code of ethics to protect their reputations, accuracy and the reputations of their subject matter.
  82. 82. Conclusions <ul><li>Always use at least two sources before printing something about a real live person that could be damaging. </li></ul>
  83. 83. Conclusions <ul><li>Always use at least two sources before printing something about a real live person that could be damaging. </li></ul><ul><li>If you’re not sure, don’t print a name, but still tell the story. </li></ul>
  84. 84. Conclusions <ul><li>Always use at least two sources before printing something about a real live person that could be damaging. </li></ul><ul><li>If you’re not sure, don’t print a name, but still tell the story. </li></ul><ul><li>Always consider the consequences of what you write. </li></ul>
  85. 85. Conclusions <ul><li>Always use at least two sources before printing something about a real live person that could be damaging. </li></ul><ul><li>If you’re not sure, don’t print a name, but still tell the story. </li></ul><ul><li>Always consider the consequences of what you write. </li></ul><ul><li>Protect your sources. </li></ul>
  86. 86. Nigel Swaby [email_address]

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