We tell our kids all the time, "It's not what you say; it's the way you say it."
In an LA Times article by Norah Vincent called Putting the Brakes on Blowhard Bloggers, the author attempts to use a libel suit by a mining magnate in Australia versus an American media company as a threat to bloggers to shape up or ship out. Either watch your facts, or beware the long arm of the law.
In fact, I made the same point in an earlier post:
Of course blogging is publishing, and libel laws should absolutely apply! Just because it's instantaneous publishing, it's not any less so. And just because I don't have professional credentials and can change the appearance of this sentence two seconds after I hit "publish" does not mean I abdicate my responsibilities. I can't rip off your text without violating copyright law. Why should I be able to make untrue and defamatory remarks about your character just because I'm a poor wittle blogger who don't know no better?
The problem is that Ms. Vincent has a knack for pissing off the very people she's trying (I think) to defend. From reading her own blog, I get the sense that she's trying to tell those who tend to write before they think the same thing I just did. She's not about shutting down blogging. She's about shutting up the morons. Unfortunately, with free speech you get morons. It's part of the deal. And I'll take it.
In the major media world, editors and fact-checkers try to catch inaccuracies, excise lies and slanders and print corrections and retractions for mistakes that slip into print. But few bloggers follow this protocol. What they say, however outrageous or unfounded, tends to stick.
I think she's watched too many episodes of Lou Grant. There's no editor sitting out there saying, "We need three reliable sources before we print this" anymore. It's more like "You took the time to check that?? Shit! We lost the scoop. You're fired!"
I think that her heart is in the right place, but dividing the blogosphere into camps of "legitimate" and "blowhard" by some undefined standard is not going to help. In fact, if I must be pigeonholed, I'll stick with the unfettered blowhards. That way, I'll always be free call them idiots when they need it.
[ via A Small Victory ]
Thanks for the button, QOTWFI!