The availability of technology and the internet has made everyone a “journalist.” I put the word journalist in quotations because can we really consider someone equipped with a device that can access the internet, and an opinion a journalist? And if they really are considered journalists, does the journalism ethical code apply to them also?
For generations, journalism was considered in the traditional sense. It started with newspapers, then radio, and finally TV. Traditional media ruled the journalism world until the introduction of the blogosphere. While most blogs started out as regular people venting to a world behind an anonymous guise, some people blogged opinions on current events and other things that enraged them. A few years down the road, and many publications, such as BuzzFeed, have established themselves solely online. What started as a few trivia quizzes here and there, boomed into a part news/part entertainment online media publication that has expanded into several other countries such as India, UK, Spain etc. and is ever growing. What makes BuzzFeed unique is also the fact that not only staff but also users can contribute to the site by penning their own articles.
However, the existence of online media publications such as BuzzFeed has raised the question of whether or not they follow the ethical code that journalists pride themselves on. Almost every source of traditional media has now expanded their publication to include the internet as a means to relay information. Citizen journalists, as the blogosphere likes to refer to themselves as, argue that the ethical code used by those in traditional media does not apply to them. One of the first posts blogging ethics was on the Weblog handbook in 2002. It is as follows:
1. Publish as fact only that which you believe to be true. If your statement is speculation, say so.
2. If material exists online, link to it when you reference it. Linking to referenced material allows readers to judge for themselves the accuracy and insightfulness of your statements.
3. Publicly correct any misinformation.
4. Write each entry as if it could not be changed; add to, but do not rewrite or delete, any entry.
5. Disclose any conflict of interest.
6. Note questionable and biased sources.
Following this first outline, many improvements have been made to the bloggers’ ethical code the latest of which is:
1. Promote interactivity
• Post to your blog on a regular basis
• Visit and post on other blogs
• Respect blog etiquette
• Attempt to be entertaining, interesting, and/or relevant
2. Promote free expression
• Do not restrict access to your blog by specific individuals or groups
• Do not self censor by removing posts or comments once they are published
• Allow and encourage comments on your blog
3. Strive for factual truth
• Never intentionally deceive others
• Be accountable for what you post
4. Be as transparent as possible
• Reveal your identity as much as possible (name, photo, background info, etc.)
• Reveal your personal affiliations and conflicts of interest
• Cite and link to all sources referenced in each post
5. Promote the human element in blogging
• Minimize harm to others when posting information
• Promote community by linking to other blogs and keeping a “blogroll”
• Build relationships by responding to e-mails and comments regularly
Bottom line is regardless of whether you’re a legit journalist or simply consider yourself one there is always an ethical code to follow, and as a journalist it is your responsibility to do so.