Once, blogs were for people who really really wanted to be journalists, but
really weren’t very good. Then, they gained respect after someone realized they
didn’t have to abide by a journalistic code of ethics, publishing in a virtual
world of uncertain legal liability and hiding behind pen names like
littlepurplepuppy322 or thedarkobliterator. They could slander away and uncover connections between people.
The world started to notice. Now, it seems
every mainstream media newspaper is syndicating blogs. Got an angle? There’s
probably a “news” site that will run you.

They seem to be a reflection of our shallowness and
narcissism – logging onto a news site to hear about ourselves, rather than the
rest of the world. Is it a Sydney thing? The SMH‘s Sam and the City blandly reveals what a
vacuous place Sydney can be. But now that blogs appear on news sites, are
they beholden to the same code of ethics? Not only do bloggers seem to do
little in the way of research that readers couldn’t do at home for their
entries, they simply invite comments. Yet the comments are screened!

Last week,
I read a Sam and the City blog entry that so insulted my
intelligence I simply had to respond, refuting the premise of the entry that had
been posted, only to be told that my comment would be reviewed before posting.
This is fine if the reviewing is to ensure I was not being vulgar (or maybe
un-Australian?). My reply was none of these things, yet it was never posted!
Going back to read the comments on that particular entry, I found that not ONE
dissenting comment had been posted there. The next day I tried again. Again, my
comment was not posted. Is this censorship? Is there a conflict of interest if
bloggers, operating in a journalistic world, are allowed to censor feedback that
reveal the paucity of their research, reasoning, opinion, or intelligence?
Imagine if the opinion writers censored the Letters page. Yet no open forum
exists to tackle bloggers. And there seems to be no stated policy for blog
feedback regulation.

Essentially, bloggers are still people who weren’t
good enough to be journalists, but now they get the credibility by being
associated with newsprint (even if they don’t make the newsprint edition).
They’re simply a marketing tool to enlarge the on-line readership. Will blogs
last? Probably, but there perhaps will be fewer as podcasters and the next
as-yet unimagined media streaming thing is brought on board. While the spirit of
blogging persists in syndicated blogs, they can’t expect to be treated with
credibility until they allow readers the same freedoms they reward themselves
with. If they don’t, I’ll start blogging about it.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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