Continuing Discussion of Blogging Ethics

Karen Schneider has posted about blogging ethics – very interesting reading, especially the two links to lists of potential “blogging ethics” that bloggers might want to follow. The whole “blogging ethics” thing is an interesting concept, though difficult at best to implement in any formal fashion, since anyone with a PC and a web connection can post whatever to their heart’s content. But it could be implemented in the seeting she’s interested in – that of the bloggers who plan to blog for PLA.

I’m going to comment on something Karen mentioned in the beginning of her post, and has mentioned in previous posts, because I think this concept is something that bloggers need to get their heads around before moving on to a discussion of blogging ethics. Karen says “Too many of us want to be considered serious citizen-journalists, when it suits us” … I even claimed this in a previous post .

Let me clarify a little bit (practicing the blog ethics concept of correcting misinformation :-). I don’t see my blog or other library blogs as replacing – they serve two very different purposes. Using my blog as an example, here’s my stated purpose (lame though it might be): “cool stuff about library web sites … and whatever else I decide to post.” Here’s what I do: I read other blogs, articles, books, etc., mostly focused on web technology. When I see something interesting and useful, something I think other library web techies would be interested in, I post it to my blog. I comment on it – try to take an idea further, stretch non-library web products into a library setting, etc. And I might post my own web-related thoughts when they occur and seem interesting, too. The goal could be stated as being in two places at one time – if you didn’t see something interesting, maybe I did. Two people can cover more ground in keeping up with web-related information than one person.

Is that being a citizen journalist? Well… yeah, kinda sorta. Googling the term “journalist” gives these two definitions, among others: 1. “one who keeps a journal” and 2. “The conductor of a public journal.” I fit both of those. But I think Karen is thinking more about the other definitions given – “one whose occupation is journalism” and “one whose business it is to write for a public journal … or other professional writer for a periodical.”

I don’t meet all those criteria. I’m not paid to blog, and it’s not my “business” (although Gary Price might fall into this category). But then again, my blog could be called a “public journal.” Could it be that this is a new medium of communication? What do you get when you mix a diary, niche information, a trade publication, notes, an email, an IM, and a converstion together, and then stick it on a website? Answer: a blog.

My point here? Blogs (library-related blogs, anyway) are just similar enough to traditional media (I’m thinking trade publications, or at least posts on trade publication websites) to be confused with actually being traditional media. But a blog is also very different from traditional media – for example, my blog doesn’t pass through any editorial channels. This is happening with other forms of media as well – I can post my own music on the web without having to pass through a record label; I can create a movie and post it on the web without having to pass through a movie studio; I can write a book and post it to the web (like Lawrence Lessig did with his latest book). Etc. This is a great thing – other professionals can access my blog, and “subscribe” to it if they find it useful. Sure, having no form of editorial board could also be a bad thing – but I’m not posting about brain surgery, either. If someone doesn’t find my blog useful, they can ignore it. Any discussion of what should be done when bad information is posted to a blog should really cover that concept for the whole web – not blogs alone.

Here are two other examples. LISNews is great at posting interesting library-related news. So that’s sorta traditional (except that you don’t have to wait for a monthly print publication to keep up-to-date on library news). But TeleRead isn’t very traditional at all: that blog is very focused on niche information (e-books). TeleRead includes information on new e-book products, comments on those products, observations on ebooks, etc. No traditional media is going to be that focused. At the least, it wouldn’t be profitable enough to sustain.

So… where does that leave us? Am I a citizen-journalist? Not really. I’m participating in a new medium of communication that resembles some aspects of aspects of traditional journalism, but is very different in many ways, too. How’s that sound? Am I going in the right direction with this? Feedback is always good :-)

Looking back at the early 1900s, I wonder if someone debated whether or not letter writing and phone calling were similar or different?