Monday, December 04, 2006

Blogger Ethics?

Mike at Marry in Massachusetts had an interesting post on bloggers and money today. Coming from a background in journalism, Mike took offense to a new trend in the national lefty blogosphere: either joining campaigns or becoming internet consultants for them. The danger, he seems to say, is that certain well-trafficked blogs will become little more than PR sites.

[Several big lefty bloggers] all wrote glowingly of their masters, apparently happily trading independence for the world of PR (or some worse term). Glover does note that nearly all revealed their campaign ties, if not the stipend. At least one, Patrick Hynes of Ankle Biting Pundits did so only when other bloggers found out and screamed.

In part, Mike's got a point. However, there's much more to it. John Amato of Crooks and Liars has a good post on all this hooplah. One that leads to one of the single greatest quotes about blogger perceptions out there:

There are so many ways to write articles casting bloggers in a poor light. First, invent arbitrary ethical or journalistic standards which apply to no one else in the universe, and then show how bloggers violate them. Second, assume beliefs and motives of bloggers, lumping them all together, and then invent charges of hypocrisy. Third, invent arbitrary benchmarks for accomplishments which if achieved prove bloggers have superpowers, but if not achieved prove they are teh suck. Fourth, elevate an invented concept of "civility" as an all-important value. Fifth, the practice of "nutpicking," attributing the comments in unmoderated comments sections to the blogger him/herself.
It all comes down to this question: who are bloggers? Bloggers are everyone. It's nice - and easy - to make some sweeping judgement or statement about the blogosphere (ex. we're a bunch of hacks). However, it's far from being accurate. Just like in any other line of "work" (and I use that loosely, as I've never seen a paycheck), there will always be some people who do their jobs better than others. Some bloggers are great at what they do. Some can write with the best of them, but aren't exactly independently minded or careful with the facts. There are some who lie on a daily basis. There are some who are okay, but aren't very original.

The fact is that bloggers can't even come to a decisive conclusion as to what we do. Are we citizen journalists? Are we a new form of media? Are we wholly different than the media? Every blogger sees their work as something different. Some bloggers see themselves as activists, highlighting important issues or trying to get essential bills passed. Others see themselves as an alternative to newspapers. Some blogs focus on certain areas and intend to be a resource for that area (such as town blogs or blogs like "Mass Resistance Watch"). Heck, some probably consider themselves trouble makers (Perez Hilton, anyone?).

So John Amato, Eschelaton and other blogs seem to be in the right here: how can people criticize blogs when there really aren't any "rules" to blogs to begin with. Should bloggers believe that free speech means zero pay? The media certainly doesn't. Furthermore, is it such a bad idea that politicians are starting to listen to bloggers? If they're courting blogs, that certainly means they're listening and at least getting the message - even if they don't like it and will eventually try to circumvent it.

On a personal note, I'm of the belief that being paid isn't a bad thing. After all, a paycheck is sadly the bedrock of society: you can't have a warm home and hot plate without a wage. That's why I stuck an ad banner on my website - I'm tired of choosing between gas and food (get clicking!) Furthermore, for too long has the left considered warm, tender feelings about knowing we're 'doing good' as the primary form of payment. The right learned, long ago, to keep its talent by paying them well. The left would do well to learn that lesson, as campaign rookies move on to the private sector when being paid college credit can't pay the rent. If progressives want to win, we need to not only accept that people need to earn a living - but promote it within our political realm. It will foster new ideas, new leadership and ultimately a more progressive, people-powered political movement in America.


Peter Porcupine said...

PORCUPINE is a pundit! And perhaps a trouble maker too....

In addition to my blogging, I have a paid part-time writing job under another name, as well as a 9 - 5 day job. That's why Porcupine has no ads, other than BlogAd Swap where no cash changes hands - it is my own little corner of the world.

Besides, when you have Google ads, every time you make fun of al Franken, an ad touting his latest worthless book pops up! TOO annoying!

Oh, and no politician has EVER offered me money to blog about them, althoguh many seem to feel I should for free.

Ryan Adams said...

That's exactly what I need - a paid, part-time writing job. I need to buy Christmas presents somehow =p

Anonymous said...

Sorry to burst your bubble Ryan, but PP would post about the opening of an envelope. In someone else's blog, of course. I'm guessing neither job takes up a lot of time...

He's also a female Republican State Committee member.

But hey, if internet addicted "cross-posting" insurance agents are your bag, baby, go for it. Everyone needs role models.

Ryan Adams said...

Well, I didn't say I wanted PP's writing gig. However, if - for example - the Standard Daily Times were looking for a mini columnist to write something bi-weekly that would be well-written, substantiative and almost entirely different than the ranting, raving lunatic posts I write so lovingly on my blog - I'd be all about it. Even if it were like a 50-100 bucks a column.

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