Ethics in the Blogosphere

090422_dsc0492ssAs you all know, I am taking a course in Political Blogging.  I’m not really into political; I think it’s too much about winners and losers, but I wanted to develop a blog and it’s easy enough to claim that all human behavior is political, so I did.  My goal was to get up a blog, and here it is.  I think the professor’s goal was to arrive at a good discussion of ethics in the media, and he also succeeded.

It is a question, isn’t it, about ethics.  It’s a fine thing for each of us to express an opinion that someone else actually can listen to, rather than to have a few media bigwigs control our communal flow of information.  But it might not be so good for the community that we bloggers, as a group, have no written-down code of ethics to guide us.  The media, especially the long-standing newspaper sources of information, mostly took pride in a code of ethics that prevented a secretive bias of the information.

So I was thinking about ethics and blogging and various scenarios, and I thought of the Huffington Post, that seems to be trying to make itself into a newspaper on line, and its recent creative foray into public information gathering about the TEA parties that were held all over the country on May 15 — and here are my questions:

1.  Was it ethical to send out the word to everyone online that they are welcome to attend whatever local TEA party that caught their interest, and then to contribute pictures and news reports by email to the Post?  Even if the contributors don’t know anything about news gathering or codes of ethics?

My answer is – Sure, why not?  The amateur reporters get to have a lot of fun, they get exposed to ideas that may or may not be different from their own, and they are doing something that couldn’t be done by a reporter.  The Post gets a real bonanza of pictures and stories they can use any way they want without paying anyone for the time and effort.  And the TEA parties get advertising.  It’s a win-win-win.

2.  Is it ethical to sort out these media to represent the bias of the publisher?

I say sure, why not, if the publisher acknowledges its bias from the get-go, but this is only a win-win, which is not as good as a win-win-win.

3.  Is it ethical to claim that you have posted all the photos and then selectively edit which photos that you post — or don’t post?

I say No.  Honesty (or as one of the speakers at my TEA party said) “honor!” is a bottom-line essential component of a media code of ethics, no matter your bias.

Furthermore, as it is obvious there are no either/or answers to these sorts of questions, I say we should evaluate them according to the “win-win-win” system.  I’m really tired of hearing from politicos that everything in the world is a “win-lose” emergency. Almost nothing in the world is a win-lose emergency, and I say anything less than win-win doesn’t fly. If we care about our community.

(And besides, my pictures were better.)

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