Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Are Bloggers Journalists?

If you are a part of the conversation in the new web 2.0 world sooner or later you will journey into what is becoming a classic debate (at least in the study of journalism)- should bloggers be considered journalists?

The debate crept its way into my Journalism Ethics class this Wednesday as we began the discussion with Rebecca Blood’s guidelines for bloggers:
1. Publish as fact only that which you believe to be true.
2. If material exists online, link to it when you reference it.
3. Publicly correct any misinformation.
4. Write each entry as if it could not be changed; add to, but do not rewrite or delete, any entry.
5. Disclose any conflict of interest.
6. Note questionable and biased sources.
Blood believes that these six standards are the “sufficient” means to which blogging should be conducted and considered credible. A particularly nice point that Blood makes on the difference between blogger and journalist is, “rights have associated responsibilities; in the end it is an individual’s professionalism and meticulous observance of recognized ethical standards that determines her status in the eyes of society and the law.”

In other words, if you are going to fancy yourself a journalist than you better conduct yourself in an ethical and professional capacity (in which you can be held responsible) by not only Blood’s standards of “believing” what you write to be true, but by knowing what you’re writing is true through a systematic approach of researching your topic and gathering sources and opinions just as any other print journalist would.

Furthermore, I find it outlandish for someone to completely dismiss the idea of bloggers being considered journalists when there is no clear distinction of what constitutes a journalist. There is no journalism license as there is for lawyers or doctors there is no bar to pass or MCATS to Ace, so why discount citizens who are responsibly reporting relevant and provocative information via a blog?

Ultimately, you cannot label all bloggers as journalists or all bloggers as non journalists. It should be viewed only on a case-by-case blog by blog distinction. You can label Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo a journalist, but I would be hesitant to say that my friend’s anonymous blog about their weekly routine is up to journalism’s standards.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Ethics of Privacy

Privacy…an aspect of life that us “ordinary folk” often take for granted. Typical America isn’t plagued by fears of someone rummaging through our garbage and analyzing our latest Safeway purchases. Nor are we in a constant state of worry over what people are saying about us, thinking about us, and seeing of us. But this isn’t America. This is Hollywood, where nothing is typical. It is where celebrities are flocked by herds of ferocious photographers and reporters, as the aspect of privacy goes straight out the door. But how far is too far? What are the ethics of invading the privacy of the rich and famous?

Perez Hilton, a blogger who has become famous for blogging, would say they are fair game. He happily flaunts the flaws and misfortunes of celebrities by showing the latest panty-less party of Britney Spears and the naked naughtiness of Vanessa Hudgens. Hilton isn’t the only one, as the industry of celebrity obsessing has grown to an obscene degree with the Usweeklys, Peoples, and In touchs of today’s newsstands. Last March, the celebrity news blog began taking advantage of the Google Maps tool to show exactly where and when a star was spotted just moments after a sighting.

But for celebrities, the industry of obsessing over their everyday routines is invasive and often dangerous. Earlier this month, video obtained by showed George Clooney scolding paparazzi for driving recklessly while following him on his motorcycle. "What they're doing is illegal," said Clooney in an interview on Entertainment Tonight. "It's high-speed chases and they're competing with each other. They're not trying to catch me doing something stupid, they're trying to create me doing something stupid. You don't get to break all these laws and then say, 'I'm just doing my job.'" And although some would argue that they asked for this, because they are in the spotlight, it is the degree to which it has been taken, that has gone to far. "You can drive all you want, you can take my picture all you want, but what you cannot do is put people in danger," said Clooney.

I admit, that the consumption of these magazines can be a guilty pleasure (only People for me!), in which the average girl can phase out the stresses of their daily lives and contemplate that of others. However, I fundamentally disagree with the lengths to which it has been taken and believe that the youth of today’s generation should be concerning themselves with issues of true importance (like the Iraq war, our upcoming election) in which the invasion of privacy is a necessity in furthering our social education.