Blogging as journalism, other social media ethics concerns

25 Jan

The validity of blogging as a way to learn about the world around us has been legitimized more and more as people have come to realize not only the power of influence, but its strength in numbers. I had last mentioned aggregation blogs like The Huffington Post that have become staples in day-to-day news gathering for many, and blogs about topics ranging from gardening to public policy are shaping the way we view our interests and each other.

Because blogs and social media platforms have permeated into the journalistic sphere, there has been a call for guidelines to avoid the perpetuation of false or misleading information based on tweets or Facebook updates from “eye-witnesses” and news outlets looking to break a story before their competitors. The Radio Television Digital News Association compiled a set of standards for news outlets to abide by, especially noting the need for accuracy and fairness.

“Twitter’s character limits and immediacy are not excuses for inaccuracy and unfairness,” the RTDNA article said.

Many have argued that blogs need not be held to the same strict ethical standard as traditional journalism, but at what point does a blog cease to be a publicly accessible diary and begin to play an influential role in the mainstream media?

A recent Technorati article called into question what a blog exactly was, drawing from the textbook definition, blogging apparatuses’ definitions, and from ProBlogger Darren Rowse. All seemed to agree on one common thread — blogs are for anything. The advent of tagging — which neatly groups posts based on subject — has made it easier for readers to filter what they read in order to maximize their blogging experience. Armchair Theorist, a blog run by a Microsoft Regional Product Manager for Internet Explorer, explores the 10 best tagging practices. The New York Times and ESPN also recently launched user-friendly “second screens” for readers to follow along with while watching television. Methods like these developed to maximize social media’s audience have increased the need to acknowledge blogs, Twitter and the like as a viable means of journalism.

A Media Bistro article detailing the way the news cycle has adapted to new media shows how these new techniques have influenced and complicated the way news is distributed. It makes an excellent point that a blog that serves solely as a solitary medium (it’s not attached to a bigger overall news brand) uses its online platform as its sole distributor of information, and a larger news outlet that is desperate to break a story will be quick to post it online faster than it would on its primary medium, such as print or television broadcast.

News outlets such as NPR have been embracing this new media revolution and experimenting with regional beat blogs on various topics ranging from education to immigration. In addition to The Argo Project pushing the envelope on fostering blogging among an audience, it also taught reporters about the nuances of blogging who previously had limited experience with social media and web content. Although The Argo Project’s NPR funding ends at the conclusion of the project, the 12 participating stations are trying to keep the blogs going on an open-source system due to their overwhelming popularity. The ever-changing online atmosphere has sparked the need to analyze how the project would have evolved had it begun in 2012 instead of 2010, which goes to show just how dynamic a medium the Internet and blogging is overall. For instance, the newest revelations in web savvy have been to embrace a group dynamic and team playing, as well as incorporating proficient editing skills and meshing articles and topic stories. Nevertheless, the popularity of this project shows just how much influence a blog can have over an audience.

In the end, new media ethics is a frontier that is not fully understood. However, the same journalistic standards can definitely be said to apply to any medium that reaches a large audience. If you have an audience, you have an obligation to said audience to give them accurate, reliable information.

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One Response to “Blogging as journalism, other social media ethics concerns”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers January 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Falls under excellent on the grading rubric. Nice job of aggregation. I want everyone to work more on this aggregating skill – it combines with your writing and editing skills.
    Headline is not quite grammatical
    Many have argued that blogs need not be held to the same strict ethical standard as traditional journalism, but at what point does a blog cease to be a publicly accessible diary and begin to play an influential role in the mainstream media? A VERY GOOD QUESTION AND ONE WE ARE DEBATING NOW

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