Blogher takeaway: Blogs need a Code of Ethics
One of the sessions I attended at Blogher was a birds of a feather discussion of citizen journalism. As I sat there, listening to all the various points of view on whether bloggers are journalists (and full disclosure, I believe the answer is sometimes but not always, some but not all), I had one of those “aha” moments.
One of the things that distinguishes professional journalists from bloggers – “citizen reporters” – is the journalism code of ethics. For an example, check out the LA Times code of ethics (pdf). Bloggers typically don’t have a published code of ethics on their blogs.
When I started this post, I expected to find that professional journalists and other communications professionals would have something like a code of ethics on their blogs. But for the most part, you won’t find an explicit code of ethics on a typical weblog, no matter who writes it….
Yet, it occurs to me that such a code of ethics on a blog would go a very long way to establishing the sort of credibility that bloggers need and crave.
Now, thinking back to the spring, I recall some discussion that we try to establish a blogging code of ethics. A single code of ethics to which all subscribe. Nice idea, but it isn’t going to fly. We don’t live in a utopia or a single worldwide dictatorship. We won’t ever be able to reach that level of agreement among ALL bloggers. And such centrality is in direct opposition to the spirit of the Internet and blogging -- a decentralized place that smashes barriers to participation.
But an individual code of ethics on a blog… A description of the blogger’s values and the “rules” by which she writes her blog… That would be a VERY good thing for all blogs.
Yet, I really haven’t seen too many codes of ethics published on blogs – even on the blogs of people who are deep into the discussion of citizen journalism.
Here are a few “code of ethics”–like things I’ve found (and this list is by no means exhaustive – please send me any other examples you find!):
In his about page, Steve Rubel of Micropersuasion offers the following disclosure:
I work for CooperKatz & Company. Everything here, though, is my own personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Occasionally, since this is a personal blog, my company and its clients will be referenced. However, these postings are in no way any part of any PR program nor an attempt to influence reader opinions. Currently, I am working with the following organizations: The Association of National Advertisers, simplehuman, Vespa, the Kauffman Foundation, NYU and Topix.net.
Jeremy Pepper offers a Comments Policy on his main blog page:
This is not a public forum, this is My Blog.
This is very much my personal place. Please act as if you were a guest in my home, and I will treat you as one.
Opposing views are welcomed.
I will, however, delete your comment if you descend into personal attacks, excessive profanity, mouth-foaming hatred, or other such immature behavior that I deem unacceptable in my home.
Please craft your contribution accordingly.
Jay Rosen, PressThink has a pretty extensive Q&A on his blog which functions to some degree like a code of ethics, but it isn’t labeled as such.
The closest things I’ve found to an explicit code of ethics:
The Citizen Journalist pledge at Bayosphere, the new venture of journalist Dan Gillmor:
Citizen Journalist Pledge
By submitting this form, I agree to be accurate, complete, fair and transparent in my postings on Bayosphere. My work will be my own, created by me and/or in collaboration with others. I will operate with integrity.
I work in the community interest.
As a citizen journalist, I report and produce news explaining the facts as fairly, thoroughly, accurately and openly as I can.
* Fair: I'm always listening to and taking account of other viewpoints;
* Thorough: I learn as much as I can in the time I have, and point to original sources when possible;
* Accurate: I get it right, checking my facts, correcting errors promptly and incorporating new information I learn from the community;
* Open: I explain my biases and conflicts, where appropriate.
I may also provide reviews (such as a critique of a movie or book) and commentary with a point of view based on facts, but I will have no significant financial or otherwise direct connection (membership, affiliation, close relationship, etc.) with an interested party.
If I do have such connections, I'll disclose them prominently, and my work may be labeled and/or categorized appropriately.
I agree, as an active member of this community, to help uphold the integrity of this pledge by challenging and reporting inappropriate postings or abuse.
* I will acknowledge and correct mistakes promptly
* I will preserve the original post, using notations to show where I have made changes
* I will never delete a post
* I will not delete comments unless they are spam or off-topic
* I will disclose conflicts of interest (including client relationships) where I am able to do so
* I will not publish anything that breaches my existing employment contract
* I will distinguish between factual information/commentary and advertising
* I will never publish information I know to be inaccurate
* I will disagree with other opinions respectfully
* I will link to online references and original source materials directly
* I will strive for high quality with every post - including basic spellchecking
* I will write deliberately and with accuracy
* I will reply to emails and comments when appropriate, and do so promptly
* I will restrict my posting to professional topics
* I will write on a regular basis, at least once each week
Well, here’s my code of ethics for Marketing Roadmaps:
Marketing Roadmaps is my opinion, based on my experience. Your mileage may vary. I will be respectful of my readers’ views, and expect the same courtesy.
- When I have an opinion, I will be completely clear about it. You won’t have to guess.
- I won’t delete posts unless the content proves to be completely off base, in which case I will leave a placeholder that explains what happened so search engines won’t perpetuate any mistakes I have made. Typically I will annotate the original post with new material rather than delete the post.
- I will not blog information learned offline or in private conversations unless I am absolutely certain that it is public information or I have obtained permission from the person who shared the information. When in doubt I will err on the side of caution.
- I will not delete comments unless they are spam or off-topic. Ditto trackbacks.
- I will link and trackback to other blogs appropriately, and always endeavor to add to the conversation.
- I will say thank you, replying to emails and comments promptly and pleasantly, even when I disagree with you.
- I will be honest about my clients and relationships so my readers will understand my loyalties.
This code of ethics will be posted on my About page.
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