Singing for Your Supper

By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2006-12-28 Print this article Print

So should independent bloggers hold themselves to the same standard? Yes, if they want to maintain any semblance of real independence and if they want to be taken seriously by readers.

In fact, there is little difference between bloggers and journalists because more than ever they are one in the same: educated and trained professionals who are paid to publish news and opinions in blogs rather than on formal news Web sites.

Increasingly bloggers are fighting the same legal battles and claiming the same rights as professional journalists to report the news free of restraint from the courts, lawsuits and prosecutors.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation in May won an appeals court decision that stated that bloggers were protected by Californias reporter shield law and by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution from divulging confidential sources.

The decision involved an attempt by Apple Computer to force the owners of Mac rumor sites to divulge the sources for blogger reports that contained confidential information about unannounced Apple products.

The appeals court decision reversed an earlier California Superior Court decision that held that the rumor sites were obligated to disclose their sources.

So whether they like it or not, bloggers are in the same boat as professional journalists because on occasion they will find themselves under the same legal and ethical scrutiny as the professionals.

Click here to read about a California court decision that upholds the right of bloggers to keep their sources confidential.

Many bloggers may have never taken a Journalism 101 course, but it behooves them to read up on the basics of ethics and press law. They will need to know how to respond when they get hailed into court on charges of libel, invasion of privacy, or by browsing prosecutors who want to know what confidential sources have been telling them.

A.J. Liebling, the renowned columnist and press critic, famously wrote: "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."

But today the Internet is our press and it has made us all publishers and journalists rolled into one. If we are going to take this power into our own hands, we have an obligation to our readers to wield it with some semblance of honesty and integrity.

Every time we accept gifts of any kind we are compromising our objectivity and independence. Even the bloggers who accepted laptops from Microsoft, but later published negative comments about Vista, cant claim the gifts didnt compromise their independence.

Accepting a free laptop means that your objectivity and cooperation is for sale and there is a debt that can be called in some day at the right moment.

Like it or not, bloggers have to accept that by default they are all part of the worldwide community of journalists. They have an obligation to adhere to a basic ethical standard if they expect their readers and the world at large to respect their work.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on image editing and Web publishing tools.

John Pallatto John Pallatto is's Managing Editor News/West Coast. He directs eWEEK's news coverage in Silicon Valley and throughout the West Coast region. He has more than 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, which began as a report with the Hartford Courant daily newspaper in Connecticut. He was also a member of the founding staff of PC Week in March 1984. Pallatto was PC Week's West Coast bureau chief, a senior editor at Ziff Davis' Internet Computing magazine and the West Coast bureau chief at Internet World magazine.

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