Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The future of blogging

The headline about blogging caught my attention right away.

"Court determines that bloggers are journalists, then screws them over.

It would seem that a ruling was handed down in New Zealand.   It stated that bloggers are essentially journalists and entitled to rights as such.  In the case in question specifically, a blogger does not have to turn over the identity of their anonymous sources.  However, the complication comes from another aspect of the ruling which states that a judge (in New Zealand, anyway) can determine that in a particular case, such a "shield law" may not apply.  In other words, a blogger may claim the right of shield but it can be taken away from them at any time.

Doesn't make much sense.

I also know that there are those among us who chafe at the notion that a blogger is a journalist.  Likewise, I'm not certain I would call myself such a thing.  I try to at least loosely follow rules of journalism in terms of citing where I get things and having responsibility for what I write, but that's about it.  If anything, I'd have to call myself a literary journalist.

When did bloggers start referring to themselves as journalists?  I'm not sure as I've yet to encounter one who does so.  The first time I remember the word even being applied to the blogosphere was during Rathergate in 2004.  Dan Rather and 60 Minutes featured documents that were critical of then-President George W. Bush's service in the military.  Bloggers wasted no time calling into question the authenticity of the documents.  Two blogs in particular, Little Green Footballs and Power Line, were especially critical of the published memos and were instrumental in uncovering the eventual truth of the documents: they were forgeries.  Mainstream TV news had copious amounts of egg on its face, labeled as corporate stooges while bloggers were heralded as true independents and the future of news media.

Even though I was a blogger at that time (though nowhere as serious about it as I am now), a few things didn't sit right with me about that line of thinking.  Blogging has come a long way since that time and a blog can be a full-force professional creature.  The fact remains, however, that anyone can have a blog.  While that egalitarian facet is wonderful, it doesn't do much for the veracity of what you read.  Who is fact checking the guy writing from his basement?  What is to keep them from conducting attacks on others for purely personal purposes and doing so with anonymity?  I'm talking everything from parody chansonettes to Photoshopped pics.  Additionally, as we're coming to find out, a blogger can be on the payroll for a corporation or a lobbyist every bit as much as a corporate news source can.  Should this enjoy the same "shield law" as a journalist?  I'm not so sure that it should.

Of course that brings up other questions for the future of blogging.  "Slippery slope" and whatnot, even though that typically ends up as a logical fallacy.  Ideally, all those who write for blogs would be treated equally under law.  By the same token, everyone should also share protection from malicious and vindictive attacks.

I hope someone wiser than me comes up with a solution to this quagmire.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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