Roll Your Own Ethics

In a paper prepared for the "Blogging, Journalism and Credibility: Battleground and Common Ground" conference at Harvard, the Poynter Institute's Bill Mitchell and Bob Steele propose that individual bloggers' craft their own ethics guidelines.

"The idea, in brief, is for bloggers to invite questions from their audience about what questions they have about the blog, what might increase their level of trust, etc. The questions would vary with the blog. The blogger might then build an FAQ responding to such questions and could update the FAQ new questions arise. Finally, the blogger could be guided by those questions in creating a principles and policies statement addressing issues of trust and credibility. The blogger could describe the principles he or she is committed to, e.g., fairness, independence, accuracy, etc. In addition, bloggers creating such a page could describe the processes theyd use in order to uphold their principles. They might explain how they handle updates and corrections on their blogs, for example, as well as an explanation of how they handle comments. And if the blogger wants to offer some personal background -- where they're coming from,' as Jay Rosen puts it -- so much the better.

"Individual bloggers will have to make their own decisions about whatever principles and processes guide their behavior, of course. The most effective standards and codes are not imposed from the outside. The idea that the journalism establishment would have the standing or influence to impose ethical standards on the blogosphere seems especially disconnected from reality.

"But that doesnt mean bloggers have no responsibilities to others. At the point bloggers make their work public, the public -- and anyone the blogger is writing about -- become stakeholders. That's a matter of ethics."

This is an excellent way to approach ethical standards in the blogosphere, and nicely echoes CyberJournalist.net's position that, in the end, it's up to bloggers' to take responsibility for what they publish.

For some examples of what standards individual bloggers may want to choose to follow, see CyberJournalist.net's proposed Bloggers' Code of Ethics.



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