I pledge not to pledge

I pledge not to pledge

: Yesterday, I suggested that Dan Gillmor should have wikied his pledge and Sean Bonner has done it. Dan has some links.

Thinking about it last night, I liked the idea of a pledge even less but thought I should explain that more.

A pledge assumes ill will and mistrust, requiring that we promise we won’t do something bad. If we’re decent and you trust us, we shouldn’t have to do that. I don’t have to take a pledge not to torture little puppies for you to trust that I won’t do it. I shouldn’t have to pledge to be honest to be honest.

The whole point of this new medium is that it is human and not institutional. In a human relationship, apart from wedding vows and oaths in court, we don’t take pledges. When you meet a neighbor, you don’t feel the need to say, I pledge not to dump my garbage in your backyard. The compact of civility and trust is assumed until it is broken. That’s the way I think this new medium operates. A blog is a person. Buzzmachine is me. You either like and trust me or don’t (and there are plenty who don’t; just read the comments). Or to put it another way: Like me, like my blog; dislike my blog, dislike me. I keep coming back to the conclusion of my blog chat with NY Times exec editor Bill Keller: Though blogs can do journalism and do media they are still essentially human. Journalism is institutional, impersonal, and dispassionate; blogs are human, personal, and passionate. Institutions takes pledges because they have become separated from the people they serve and they need to. Humans — bloggers — shouldn’t need to. Doesn’t mean you have to trust a blogger. But saying “trust me” doesn’t mean anybody should trust you more.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to see blogs turn into an institution, or try to, for then they wouldn’t be blogs anymore. They are human and operate on a personal and social scale and it’s a mistake to see them through institutional eyes. When I sat at an Annenberg confab on journalism a few weeks ago, I flashed on the frightening notion that in 50 years, there could be such confabs among bloggers fretting over trust, ethics, professional standards, educational needs, government relationships…. But then I snapped out of it. I was looking at blog through institutional eyes. No, blogs are just people speaking.