As Groucho used to say…
: There has been a rousing discussion on the Media Bloggers Association‘s listserv about whether the MBA should have a code of ethics and standards and such. Well, actually, the discussion started with what kind of code it should be to get a committee going on the task. I entered the word “whether” into the discussion.
I said I didn’t think we should have a code, echoing what I’d said in reaction to Bayosphere’s pledge here and here. I believe codes are for institutions that have lost their humanity while blogs are human and trust here is measured every day by everyone with whom we interact. And I don’t want to see blogs turn into institutions and closed societies. I also agree with Fred Wilson that lists of the Top N this or Top N that are silly in a medium where the meat’s in the middle, where everyone determines their own Top N lists and where the top for everybody becomes merely a least common denominator. (I will confess to coveting Technoratijuice but rationalize faw egotism in that case because that it’s about links rather than lists and it enables the conversation; this is also why I enjoyed blogebrity skewering the lists and those on them by creating one with no rationale except random ego tweaking; and this is why I didn’t link to another Top list that just came out).
I also want to say that I wasn’t crazy about the discussion occurring on a listserv rather than on the open web. Ditto some great discussions that have occurred out of a few Harvard confabs. Listservs (let alone ones from Harvard…) are closed conversations themselves and I think we get the wisdom of the crowds (and the lack thereof in isolated cases) when discussions are held in public.
Well, today Corante’s Dana Blankenhorn took the MBA discussion public with a bang – a bang on my head.
I figure a group like the MBA could at least enforce simple rules by creating valuable member benefits and kicking out those who refuse to conform, following some objective process.
But thatís not how itís going down, mainly due to one person, Jeff Jarvis (right).
Jarvis wants no standards, and certainly no policing. Might as well disband the committee.
ìWhy pledge to be honest? Only if you’re assumed to be dishonest.
Used car salesmen should take the pledge. My blog friends do not need to.î
No objective measures of ethics, thus anything goes. Want to lie, misrepresent, ignore facts, engage in personal destruction for the sheer fun-raising hell of it? Heck, thereís no such thing as truth. We define whatís truth based on who yells the loudest.
Well, pardon my language but bullshit. Thereís a fine line between libertarian and anarchist, and Jeff Jarvis just crossed it.
And on… and on… Go read the rest there.
Since this is in public, where it should be, I’ll quote (obnoxiously) from my own emails that said why I think we need to look at the world differently. (I’ll leave it to others to quote their on views on their own blogs.)
It may be contrarian of me, but I will argue that we should not adopt a code of ethics and standards. That is for institutions to declare because they lose touch with their publics. Weblogs are, in the end, people and, as in our everyday lives, we exhibit our ethics and standards without swearing to codes.
I have my pesonal code of ethics. You have yours. They probably all boil down to this: Be honest. But we shouldn’t have to pledge to be honest; that should be assumed. Or to put it another way: If you have to pledge to be honest, then you have a problem.
I do not think we should mimic the trade groups of media; we are something new and different and need to explore new ways….
This is also about educating the world — particularly the world of big media — about weblogs: that a parody NYTimes correction site from Bob Cox is news/commentary/journalism just as is an interview on Pressthink just as is an editing of the best of big media on Winds of Change… and that the voice of one citizen speaking — which is what a weblog is — is just as valuable in the public discourse as the voice of the guy who owns the printing press. In the end, it is up to the person on the other end of conversation, formerly known as the reader, to judge the credibility and ethics of any of us: Trust is in the eye of the beholder. It always has been, only journalists forgot that as they thought they could control this aspect of the relationship with the public as they controlled others: They wrote codes of ethics and decided what’s ethical and what’s trustworthy. Or they thought they did. I hope we can start to show how we have a new relationship with our publics….
[In response to an email about how bloggers and journalists do different things:] I disagree that “the rules and expectations are different for each.” We are all bloggers and there is not blanket rule about what a blogger — or a journalist — is and isn’t and I wouldn’t like to see one. Bloggers do journalism. Journalists do blogging. To make a sharp line is to start excluding people and their activities and voices. That is antithetical to blogging, in my view….
This is also about educating the world — particularly the world of big media — about weblogs: that a parody NYTimes correction site from Bob Cox is news/commentary/journalism just as is an interview on Pressthink just as is an editing of the best of big media on Winds of Change… and that the voice of one citizen speaking — which is what a weblog is — is just as valuable in the public discourse as the voice of the guy who owns the printing press. In the end, it is up to the person on the other end of conversation, formerly known as the reader, to judge the credibility and ethics of any of us: Trust is in the eye of the beholder. It always has been, only journalists forgot that as they thought they could control this aspect of the relationship with the public as they controlled others: They wrote codes of ethics and decided what’s ethical and what’s trustworthy. Or they thought they did. I hope we can start to show how we have a new relationship with our publics.
This is about more than a bit of high-school hallway snarking (though, as one unnamed member said in email to me: at least high school had girls!). This is about more than what this organization should be about. It’s about what blogging is.
I have to constantly kick myself to stop thinking of blogging in big-media terms, to stop judging it by the top of the power law and in silly lists, to stop assuming that bloggers want to do what media does, to stop thinking that blogging has to be media, to stop thinking of blogs as publications and remember that they are people.
I keep trying to hear Doc Searls and David Weinberger in my ear as they insist that this isn’t a medium and it’s not content. It’s new.
I don’t want to see blogging turn into just another old media institution. But I don’t think it can. It is that new.
So perhaps I’m the odd one out. Scratch the perhaps. I am an odd one out, but just one of many. That’s why I blog.
As I said in an earlier post on all this, perhaps the real lesson for me is that I’m not a joiner: Let those who want to start their societies start them and I should stay out of the way and drift from this conversation to that one, the social nomad.
Is the blogosphere a society of joiners or a vast plain of nomads? That’s the real question, isn’t it?
The pity in not joining would be that there is strength in numbers when it comes to support, education, defense, lobbying, selling and, besides, blog confabs are a lot of fun. So I still ask: Do we need codes and standards to have that?