Lines in the quicksand

Lines in the quicksand
: Blogs make their own rules.

Today, Campaign Desk interviews Wonkette (aka Ana Marie Cox) about out-Drudging Drudge and linking to a tricked up Amazon wish list with the alleged/reputed/reported/rumored name of the alleged/reputed/reported/rumored Kerry intern. She says:

“The [rules] are different for every person. That’s the tragedy and triumph of self-publishing. I’ve gotten s*** from people [pause] or, say, static from people who I think sort of take the CJR position. [Which is? Campaign Desk was curious to know]… that I shouldn’t do it, shouldn’t even mention the actual topic, don’t hint. Obviously that’s not my position. I’ve also gotten static from people, well my boss, who thinks I should publish everything I get… He’s British….

“I’ve drawn a line for myself in a universe where there are no lines. I’ve drawn my lines. I think given some time I could probably develop a more philosophical justification of where I’ve drawn the line, but the one I have for you now is I tried to choose a middle ground, something I’m going to look back on and feel comfortable with.

“Journalists do this all the time… they insert the word ‘alleged’ when writing a story about someone who has committed a crime…The word alleged just floats right by [readers]…Journalism is full of these half-assed lines that people draw.”

Campaign Desk also took bloggers to task for releasing exit polls before real polls closed, violating a recently embraced journalistic canon.

Markos Moulitos of Daily Kos responded:

Problem is, blogs aren’t necessarily bound by journalistic ethics. As a blogger, I make my own rules. People don’t like them, they are welcome to head elsewhere to get their information.

I love your site and all, but I do find it amusing that you guys are trying to apply rules to a medium that doesn’t have rules. Blogs are the wild west of the media world. They are journalistic outlaws. We can gleefully police traditional media based on the rules they have set for themselves, even as we equally gleefully flaunt those rules.

As such, the concept of “ethics” doesn’t really apply. We cater exclusively to our readers, in a way that traditional media outlets can never match (what with the quaint but unattainable quest for fairness and balance). As such, our readers draw our boundaries. If my readership was outraged about my running exit polls, then I would stop. And while a handful of people were upset, the vast majority approved (and “rewarded” me with out-of-control traffic).

Well said. New world, new rules. It’s a world of individuals and so the rules will always be set by individuals. That will be difficult to bear by those who are accustomed to an industry, which can set its rules by consensus and shame. Not so here.