Jay Rosen: Getting a clue about bloggers and ethics

by jonl

Jay Rosen understands better than anybody the distinctions between traditional media and social media, and he’s written a great post about it, called “If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn’t. So Let’s Get a Clue.”

He writes about trust, quoting Dave Winer, who says “a blog is not defined by the software or features in the format (like comments) but by a person talking: ‘one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think’…. To trust a blogger is to trust in a person, talking to you, who is working without the safety net of an institution.”

In talking about gatekeepers and filters, he makes a really important distinction

In closed systems, editorial production is expensive, so we need good gatekeepers. We solved that problem by having professionals do it.

In open systems, production is cheap and new material abundant, so we need good filters. We solved that problem by having bloggers, social media sites and software do it.

Bloggers have ethics, or practices that lead to trust. They practice “the ethic of the link,” pointing to other thoughts and ideas – Jeff Jarvis talks about a Golden Rule of links in journalism: “ink unto others’ good stuff as you would have them link unto your good stuff. This emerges from blogging etiquette but is exactly contrary to the old, competitive ways of news organizations: wasting now-precious resources matching competitors’ stories so you could say you’d done it yourself.” They readily correct themselves, “they don’t claim neutrality, but they do practice transparency,” they converse openly with each other, they point to each others’ sites as frames of reference, and when they have a story, they keep it alive until naturally cycles out. “In all these ways, good bloggers build up trust with a base of users online. And over time, the practices that lead to trust on the platform where the users actually are… these become their ethic, their rules.”

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