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.