Terra Sigillata

Tar Heel Tavern #87: MSM Addendum

After putting together last evening’s carnival posts, I walked outside this morning to find the Q Opinion section of our local Sunday paper devoted to issues of blogging.

Specifically, writer Eric Ferreri poses the question of whether bloggers should have a code of ethics, just like journalists. Martin Kuhn, a former UNC doctoral fellow in media law, presented his own code of ethics here, with an eye toward concerns that libel suits are a real and growing possibility regarding comments made on blogs and message boards.

“There will be a case where a blogger gets socked with a major judgment and loses his home, and it’s going to be a wakeup call for a lot of people out there,” said Robert Cox, founder of the Media Bloggers Association.

“Bloggers think of themselves as writers, not publishers. Very few bloggers have any concept of the legal risk they’re running with their blogs,” said Cox, who created his association in 2004 after The New York Times tried to shut down his blog because it included a satire of that newspaper’s corrections page.

In working toward his doctorate at UNC, Kuhn realized that, for the most part, ethics codes targeted primarily bloggers who acted journalistically, commenting on world affairs and current events and attempting — to varying degrees — to maintain certain ethical standards.

But Kuhn thinks the blogosphere is broader than that. So he devised an ethics code of his own, a set of general principles he thinks all bloggers should follow. They stress openness and personal responsibility, and Kuhn urges bloggers to be “as transparent as possible” by identifying themselves by name and with as much personal information as they’re comfortable with.

The section also cites heavily a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project aiming to determine why people blog (about 37% blog mainly about life and experiences, 34% consider themselves journalists, 55% blog with a pseudonym, etc.). The code of ethics issue seems to depend on whether a blogger is simply a public diarist or represents themselves as a journalist.

Props to our colleague, Anton Zuiker and his MisterSugar blog, for his article on the front of the Opinion section entitled, “For conversing by blog, follow the golden rule,” also mirrored here. Anton’s medical and personal blogging is always rich with storytelling and this piece does not disappoint, as he draws parallels between the typewritten letters of his grandfathers and his personal ethics and leadership of local blogging efforts like BlogTogether. Good on ya, Anton!

Zuiker provides the most lucid paragraph of the entire discussion on a blogger code of ethics:

But we haven’t agreed on a blogger code of ethics, and we never will. That’s because anyone can be a blogger, and a blogger can be anyone. In America, we don’t require artists or novelists or songwriters or talk show hosts or cell phone conversationalists to swear on a code of ethics for their chosen medium of expression. Don’t think that bloggers will be the first.

Ruby Sinreich, who founded, writes and edits the progressive blog, OrangePolitics.org, wrote, “Adding the personal to a public debate.”

Other local blogs mentioned are:

Tire Shop, by Nancy Baker, an attempt “to get to know other malcontents in my profession (art).”

Raleighing, by Chris Anderson, “a blog about events and changes in Raleigh.”

Raleigh Eco News, by Sue Sturgis, who writes about Raleigh environmental news. As a freelance writer and blogger who is a “real” journalist, Sue has had some excellent coverage of the Apex chemical fire on the blog and in local publications.

Endangered Durham, by Dr Gary Kueber, is a photography-dense public service on the city’s architectural history juxtaposed with current images and discussions of land use. This is a gem of a site I had not known previously, but will be sure to bookmark.

I’ll be sure to keep tabs throughout the week on the open forum discussion run by the News & Observer on whether bloggers should have unlimited free speech or should they abide by some rules.

Many thanks to the N&O for giving so much print to the blogosphere.

Comments

  1. #1 Justin Thibault
    October 22, 2006

    Thanks for posting that – it was really interesting!

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