A Case for Implementation of Journalistic Code of Conduct in Blogosphere

When in deep trouble, try to remain cool…

For some time a debate is raging on the nature of blogs and bloggers. Does blogging equal to journalism, are bloggers and their blogs subject to standards of journalism, and most of all, can they be held responsible for the views they express.

As the title of this post suggest, I’d say “yes” to most of those counts – but not in the same degree on all of them. Naturally, there are at least two widely opposing views present. One says that blogs are not journalistic pieces, whereas another claims that some sort of code of conduct should be followed

While I understand aversion to any sort of “regulation” (for lack of a better word) in the blogosphere – albeit a voluntary and selfimposed regulation (as I will show a bit later on), one thing must be considered: contrary to common sense an established code of conduct could actually diminish the possibility of censorship in the blogosphere. Why?

Simply, because it would give bloggers some sort of leverage against would-be censors.

And this is where Journalistic Code of Conduct comes in. Namely, this Code is not state-imposed but rather self-imposed by the journalists’ association in order to give journalists cover when they find themselves under attack by objects of their articles. This code of conduct has been refined during the years and is now more or less accepted by all journalists (even if they do not always conform to it). It also serves to “filter out” bad journalism from good journalism.

Bloggers are not journalists. Their subjects vary from strictly personal or even mudane to matters of greater public importance. Both extremes (and everything in between) are equally “blog-worthy”.

However. As I have shown some time ago, blogs are a modern-day version of the Speaker’s Corner. This however means that an individual who finds him/herself a subject of any particular blog entry, can feel violated and seeks justice in court – much like the Gušti affair. And since bloggosphere as a community is not closely connected but is rather a loose association of individuals, whose more or less only common point is the fact that they happen to be blogging, there is little actual resistance to more or less obvious acts of censorship by anyone who happens to be in a position of power over a particular blogger.

If there were some sort of a document which bloggers could invoke in their defence, this would be the first (albeit weak) line of defence. Admittedly, this document would not be legaly binding, but neither is Journalistic code of conduct. However the latter is still regularerly invoked. Thus I firmly believe that it is in bloggers’ best interest to form some sort of Bloggers’ Ethics Code, which would set out best practices when blogging about the “outside world” – that is to say about people and events. The said Code needs not be as rigid as the Journalists’ Code, nor as narrow minded. But one could use Journalists’ Code as a starting point, applying changes and modifications where and when necesary.

Recent events have shown that certain types of blogs and bloggers need some sort of protection. Any kind of protection – be it from politicos or from media owners. Pressure will always be brought to bear. But the community should find a way to deflect it, not just cry “Wolf!” when it happens.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

11 thoughts on “A Case for Implementation of Journalistic Code of Conduct in Blogosphere”

  1. Have you thought about writing such code of conduct yourself? You seem to be quite familiar with the journalistic code of conduct, you’re an active blogger and a journalist yourself. So the solutions comes out naturally. 🙂 No one can guarantee if people would accept it, but since the idea is good, it might be worth a try. 😉

  2. Hm… actually I’d like some more feedback from other bloggers as well – if there will be any. There has to be some critical mass of people involved. But then again it might be too early.

  3. What about getting a feedback AFTER you write it? To throw it to people for public discussion. From my experience you get more response if people only need to comment vs. having to write something on their own. Just a suggestion… 😉 I’m pretty sure you have more than enough work of your won. 🙂

  4. No worries… However, I think it would be presumptios of me to just start writing a code of conduct… I’d have to have way more information from other bloggers, about what issues (if any) they’d like to address…

  5. The trouble with a hard copied code of conduct, is that, just like with a journalism ethics code, it leaves things open for interpretation and you’ll always manage to piss offf a portion of the people you’re trying to protect, be it from others, be it from themselves. And everyone has a different idea of what would constitute such an ethics code. Let’s say that someone objects to posting nude males and females on a blog (this example chosen for no apparent reason, of course :P), or feels harrassed when confronted with conflicting views or criticism about their religion, to name but a few. What will happen then? To cut a long story short, I feel that in the end we’ll have a long list of what NOT to do or say in order to not step on anyone’s toes, inspite of what you’re suggesting, P. Which is the extreme opposite of the blatant lawlessness and disrespect that are part and parcel of Internet communication today. The only solution, imo, would be for everyone to learn to communicate with respect for everyone’s views. That would entail a great measure of tolerance for some, but at least this way communication would be civil.
    I’m probably coming out so strong against even as loose a regulation as you’re suggesting, because I have the feeling today’s society is already bound by regulations and restrictions to an insane amount and it’s getting more and more out of hand. If people can’t be trusted to act civil and with a certain amount of respect (basic ethics, to my mind), then you have a couple of choices : a) if they’re blogging you don’t go to their blog to read what you object to and hence won’t be offended; b) in this case you can also try to give your views in a comment, with the hope of provoking a constructive discussion and thereby influencing the way this person writes in a constructive – dare I say positive – manner; c) if they address your blog posts in a negative manner, you have both these choices at your disposal as well. All this could be considered a code of conduct, when it really is more of a common sense thing. And of course you could jump off the same cliff and retaliate in the same manner as they do, but that would make you miss the whole point, no?

    Just my two cents…

  6. Yes, I understand exactly what you’re saying, and I’m aware of these dangers… Pehaps “Code of Conduct” is a bad choice of words.

    Of course things would be a lot simpler if we all communicated in a civil manner. But as always it comes down to an individual. Whereas someone might react to an article in a newspaper with dignity, others file lawsuits.

    I never meant for this Code to forbid certain things – except slander, which is a criminal offence anyway. I think it would be great, though, if the Code strived for the same civility in communication you miss as well. Such as respecting the dignity of others, not publishing false information (unless it is the nature of a blog to do so), etc, etc…

    As I said – something needs to be done to protect bloggers. And it’s much better if bloggers do it on their own intiative. I would think so, at least…

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