August 18, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

The Blogger’s Double Standard

The Blogger’s Double Standard

As a blogger, I’m as guilty as many of my colleagues. I can probably count on one hand – certainly not more than two – the number of times that I have bothered to contact the subject of a blog post before publishing it. I certainly don’t live up to even a modest journalistic standard in my writing when it comes to confirming facts or seeking comment.

Many would argue that as bloggers, we don’t need to live up to the same standards as our professional media brethren. I disagree, at least in part. It seems that many of us fancy the blogosphere as “new media” and disparage “traditional media” as an archaic throwback that gets out less information more slowly. I know I am guilty of such hyperbole from time to time.

Shel Holtz and Jeremy Pepper point out but one of the risks of this approach: a rush to judgment.  In many cases, bloggers end up being proved wrong – or at least incomplete – but as Shel points out: “Professional journalists fess up to their errors (just take a look at the blog, “We Regret the Error,” if you need proof). There seems to be no similar obligation among many in the blogosphere.”

Of course, this proves to be fodder for the Cult of the Amateur crowd that believes non-professional bloggers and online content producers to be more of a detriment than a value. Needless to say, that’s nonsense, but nonsense not without a morsel of truth to it.

The real problem enters the picture, however, when bloggers cry out to be treated as journalists when it suits them. For instance, many bloggers have fought to be included within state and federal shield laws that protect journalists from being compelled to reveal sources. Allies of Think Secret contended that as a media outlet, that blog should not be compelled to reveal the names of leakers of corporate trade secrets to Apple as part of a lawsuit.

Many bloggers also wish to be treated as media at events and other activities. Bloggers have fought for and occasionally won access to major events and venues in the same manner as traditional journalists, including the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and even the White House Press Room. Though hailed as breakthroughs for blogging, many forget that with power comes responsibility.

The recent Gizmodo escapades at CES where one of their writers thought it amusing to disrupt presentations and booth displays by disabling television displays simply adds to the impression that bloggers are less citizen journalists than an unruly mob with power.

I’m not arguing that bloggers should hang up their hats and give up on the great progress that has been made in legitimizing social media. Rather, I point out this blogger’s double standard in the hope that we can all begin to engage in serious discussion about the issue and seek to act more responsibly, if not professionally. I want neither government regulation nor self-regulation; neither would work particularly well. But it would behoove all of us to educate ourselves and others in the blogosphere about the need to adhere to higher standards than we do today.

Frankly, the traditional media has issues with credibility, rush to judgment, and faulty sourcing as well, so we need not achieve perfection. One need only look at the plagiarism scandals, the recycling of inaccurate information, and other challenges in the mainstream media to understand that everyone makes mistakes.

Traditional media, as an established entity, can get away with more, however. As the upstarts, we as bloggers need to hold ourselves to a higher standard if we truly believe we can compete in the world of news and information of tomorrow. We have long since passed the day when we can continue to embrace the blogger’s double standard, choosing to compare ourselves favorably to traditional media when it suits us, while dismissing ourselves as different when that’s the easier route.

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About The Author

Chip Griffin is the Founder of CustomScoop. He writes and speaks frequently about data-driven public relations. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.

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3 Comments

  1. chipgriffin@gmail.com'
    Chip Griffin

    Just to clarify based on a comment by @scmprofessor on Twitter: I am arguing that those bloggers who make such comparisons to traditional media or act accordingly and welcome the privileges, must be willing to accept the responsibility that comes along with it. Of course, I’m not trying to press for a “rule” for all bloggers to follow.

  2. wsledzik@kent.edu'
    Bill Sledzik

    Well said, Chip. While I don’t consider myself part of the “Cult of the Amateur” crowd, I read the book, learned from it.
    Primary difference between MSM and blogs is that MSM are staffed by journalists trained at information gathering and fact checking. By virtue of earning a paycheck, they also have the time to do those jobs more thoroughly than I ever will. I blog for fun and ego, nothing more.
    That isn’t to say unpaid bloggers don’t sometimes beat the MSM at their own game. We’ve all read the case studies. But our society doesn’t have and may never have a core of unpaid citizen journalists who can serve effectively as the watchdogs of democracy. There aren’t enough of them, they don’t know how to do it, and it’s not their job.
    I try to get the story right every time I write a post. I don’t deal in rumor and speculation (though I am a bit of a smartass). I don’t pretend to be doing “real” journalism, even though some of what I write would meet the standards of many op-ed gatekeepers.
    Maybe working in a journalism school (I’m a faculty member at Kent State) skews my thinking on this issue. The values of accuracy and truth you speak of are part of our core values. It’s nice that some bloggers want to emulate those values, but let’s not overstate our importance.

  3. jake@communityguy.com'
    Jake McKee

    So a few random thoughts –
    @Chip, your comment above is a crucial piece of this discussion. Generally I agree with you, but this conversation is hard to have if we don’t specify what type of bloggers we’re talking about.
    We don’t talk about “writers”, lumping together journalists, novelists, students, and hobby magazine content creators. Those are all dealt with and discussed as different things.
    Personally, I don’t ask nor do I expect the same type of access that say Engadget gets. Blogging is a method, not a categorization.
    I’d also like to clarify the position that “The Cult of the Amatuer” tries to make a case for – it’s not a “more bad than good”, it tries to make the claim (one I believe is patently incorrect) that not only is type of content flat out bad, but that it contributes to the decline of all other forms of content. Don’t let Andrew Keen off with a more rational position than his book actually states.

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