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Democracy is Doomed … thanks to ethically challenged bloggers? (surely they don’t me moi!?)

A week or so back, we had the Business Ethics Alliance panel discussion “Does Journalistic Truth Now Mean Something Different Than It Previously Meant?” Putting aside the unwieldy title that would have been nixed by any editor worth his or her salt, the panel that assembled at the Hyatt Regency to discuss same — Diane McFarlin, publisher, Herald-Tribune Media Group; Susan Burns, editor, Biz941; and Matt Walsh, editor and CEO, the Observer Group — represented the salt of the local journalism earth.

But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” — Matthew 5:13

I wasn’t there, but I imagine this was the question they were endeavoring to answer?

And, now, coming up, “Ethics in Journalism: Can Democracy Be Preserved?” presented by the Southwest Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice group. The event, according to its press release, has guest speaker Kelly McBride, of the Department of Ethics at the Poynter Institute of Journalism in St. Petersburg, Florida, appearing to discuss her work which “seeks to ‘infuse standards and ethics’ in the new non-traditional media known as the Fifth Estate.” The press release promises the event will probe the notion that “as the Fourth Estate shrinks and broadcast news (as well as free-lance blogs) are now presented under the guise of journalism, there is little ethical accountability. Journalism, as we know it, has become a fragile species.”

Ah, let me pull the dagger from my heart.

Just two years ago, I was a panelist for this same group’s annual event, representing the non-traditional “freelance blogger” contingent. It’s apparently where I last left my ethics. (Thank god, I finally know where they went … um, has anyone seen my glasses, though?)

The panel line-up for this year’s event, which takes place Monday, November 15 at the Golden Apple, is noteworthy — guys I admire for a variety of reasons and several of whom I met for the first time two years ago as part of the panel I participated in: Waldo Proffitt,Political/Opinion Editor Emeritus, Sarasota Herald Tribune; Chris Wille, Editorial Page Editor, Bradenton Herald; Jeremy Wallace, Political Writer, Sarasota Herald Tribune; Frank Alcock, Political Science Associate Professor, New College; and Mitch Perry, Political Writer, Creative Loafing.

But interestingly, the panelists are all male, and all, except for one, are writers and editors for print newspapers. And though a couple of them have blogs ancillary to their print work, there’s not one “free-lance blogger” in the line-up — and not one broadcaster, either.

The topic of ethics in journalism (hell, for that matter, ethics in any realm of contemporary life) is compelling .. but I’m getting a tad tired of people saying freelance bloggers have no ethics and are unaccountable — especially in comparison to print folks.

Why, if I had any fewer … ethics, that is, I’d probably have already told you here in this blog about the whispers around town — oh, say, about the editor who left a local print position recently after a quite flagrant breach of journalistic ethics — allegedly!; or perhaps I’d write about the near strong-arming of writers and editors to write or include stories that will make advertisers happy — content be damned; or maybe I’d just talk about how the public’s “right to know” has been discounted with at least a couple of relevant, recent, local news stories — stories known, but unreported, by local print media.

To be fair, television talking heads have written an entirely new playbook on going fast and loose with the facts, and of course, there are bloggers and blog sites that don’t invest time in fact-checking. But are these two aspects of media really responsible for journalism becoming a “fragile species”? There are plenty of bloggers and online news sources that have very high standards and ethics.

The event organizers could have invited, for example, Sarasota’s Cooper Levey-Baker of the online Florida Independent, for example. And, I’m sure there are other members of my blogosphere brethren who would have been happy to strip off their “guise” and appear on stage with the “real” journalists.

All I’m saying is if you’re going to cast freelance bloggers as part and parcel of the devil incarnate contingent set to destroy democracy for all man-only-kind, why not invite some of them to participate in the panel — all the better to let them suffer the slings and arrows of print media’s outraged fortune?

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Posted on November 6th, 2010Comments RSS Feed
3 Responses to Democracy is Doomed … thanks to ethically challenged bloggers? (surely they don’t me moi!?)
  1. PERHAPS, YOU SHOUD ATTEND THE EVENT IN ORDER TO NOT PREJUDGE THE 4TH AND 5TH[BLOGS]DIFFERENTIALS. IT IS PRETTY WELL ESTABLISHED THAT WITHOUT THE 4TH ESTATE THE BLOGS WOULD BE EVEN MORE SUSPECT[U KNOW SEAT OF THE PANTS OPINING] IN ANY CASE, THE PUBLIC IS FREE TO Q&A, AS TO THE PANEL, DIANE MCFARLIN WAS UAVAILABLE, WE ASKED HER[SHE IS FRIENDS WITH KELLY MCBRIDE], THE POYNTER INST, IS PREEMINENT AS TO SCHOOLS OF JOURNALISM. ANYWAY THANKS FOR THE PR…………………..AUGI

    Reply
  2. Thanks for reading my blog, Augie. I know about Poynter — absolutely preeminent. Glad to hear you asked a female to be involved, though my point would have remained the same — she’s not a freelance blogger.

    I don’t believe I “prejudged” anything though — I didn’t judge the event itself (how can I since it hasn’t happpened yet), but I did add my opinion to the ideas promulgated in the press release — mostly just opposing the idea that bloggers are unethical, without standards, etc.

    I’ve been to the Coalition events — they’re great and I encourage people, whether directly involved in media or not, to attend and join this important dialogue.

    Have fun and hope you have a great turnout.
    MC

    Reply
  3. In whatever endeavour, if a human is involved, then an opinion is evident.

    Reply

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