Recently, I excoriated another blogger for what I viewed as unethical conduct. Also recently, people have obtained copies of the “C-BS News Standards” manual and compared it to the Tiffany Network’s conduct during Memogate. Those two incidents combined to make me realize that I’ve never seen a Blogging Code Of Ethics spelled out anywhere. With that in mind, I figured it might be a good idea to kick around the idea of starting one. As a starting point, I’m going to actually put down in writing the principles I subconsciously adopted when Kevin first offered me the gig here.
Update: Several people have pointed out that Rebecca Blood had come up with very similar ideas about two years ago. I didn’t know about her beforehand, and I appreciate the heads-up from Jeff Blogworthy and others. Yeah, there is a tremendous amount of overlap between her piece and mine, and I think hers is actually written a bit more clearly. It was more of a general piece, while mine had very specific examples (mostly my own, but not all of them — thanks, Kos-heads) in mind. If anyone found what I wrote interesting, they really owe themselves to go read hers, too. Most of what I said, she said too — but better and firster.
1) A blogger must be honest.
A) Every piece should a sincere expression of how the blogger perceives the facts to be, and all opinions should be heartfelt. Omitting key facts that don’t buttress the blogger’s point or posting outrageous comments simply to stir up reaction or draw attention is dishonest, and such conduct should be shunned.
B) A blogger should not put forth themselves as an expert on any given field unless prepared to back up such claims with proof.
C) A blogger should not attempt to “hide” mistakes. Deleting embarassing, dishonest, or just plain wrong postings is an attempt to re-write history. An honest blogger will update, correct, or apologize for such work, but never attempt to bury their mistakes. “The moving hand writes, and having writ moves on. Neither all your tears, nor all your wit, Shall lure it back to erase half a line, Nor change a word of it.” That’s from the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyum, and it’s sound advice.
D) A blogger should give credit where credit is due. Sources should be cited, other blogs that broke stories linked to, and original ideas credited to their sources. Plagiarism is way too easy to commit these days, and even easier to uncover.
The sole exceptions to this general principle should be 1) fictional or satirical pieces, which should be labeled as such; and 2) obscuring of personal or identifying details, if the blogger prefers to post under a pseudonym or the piece involves people who haven’t given their consent.
2) A blogger must be accurate. Bloggers who put forth statements and accounts as factual must do their homework and GET IT RIGHT. Sloppiness, laziness, and inattention to detail will get found out, and will cost the blogger credibility. And in the online world, where the only currency is reputation, they will eventually bankrupt themselves.
3) A blogger must be interesting. Topics blogged about should have some interest to at least a good percentage of the audience. (A personal note here: I have a perfectly wonderful piece written about a local talk-show host here in Manchester, Cow Hampshire, but who really cares about a former TV sports guy named Charlie Sherman? And I still can’t believe I wrote and posted that piece about the intricacies of battleship design and construction…)
4) A blogger must always put forth their best efforts. I have a half-dozen pieces I’ve started but had to abandon because I just couldn’t get the piece to work. I admit I have pretty low standards, but I do have some, and if I don’t think a piece is worth reading, I won’t post it. The one that particularly galls me that I can’t get to work is one about Jeremy Hinzman, a cowardly piece of shit deserter from the United States Army currently seeking political asylum in Canada. I think I might have to revisit that one again soon…
5) A blogger must be responsible. If a blogger chooses to allow comments (and I think it’s a good thing, generally), they have the obligation to police such comments. When someone posts a comment that violates the blogger’s ethical standards — say, such as libel, excessive profanity, coding to “rig” another site’s poll (gee, where did I get that from?), grotesquely off-topic postings, other bloggers shamelessly plugging their own sites, and outright commercial spam, just to name a few examples — it is the blogger’s obligation to remove it. I consider myself pretty fortunate — I’ve only had to go in and delete about a dozen comments since I started here at Wizbang (not counting commercial spam).
There’s certainly plenty of room for more, and I’m sure I’ve overlooked a few of the things I follow unconsciously at this point, but I think this serves as a good kickoff point. Suggestions, as always, cheerfully accepted.