Voltaire, letter to Le Comte d’Argental, August 28, 1760
There has been a lot of talk about weblogs, especially political weblogs. Old school journalists complain that bloggers don’t have the same ethical restrictions as they do. They complain that this new group of writers don’t check their facts, while turning a blind eye to the journalists within their midst that not only don’t check facts, but willfully spread lies. On the other side, bloggers struggle for recognition while refusing to even spellcheck their work, much less confine profanity.
I find the whole thing amusing, not because I consider myself exempt from their disagreements but because both sides are acting as if this is a new thing. It’s not.
The battle cry for ethics in journalism has been going on for a LONG time, as exhibited by this quotation from Voltaire. It is something that needs constant vigilance. The mistake some of us had made is thinking that mistakes can’t be made. Highly respected journalists sometimes fail to check their facts. Additionally, sometimes greatness can come from humble places. Bloggers are there in the trenches and can break the story before a behemoth news site can move.
This is a debate that has been going on for a long time. Just because it’s bits and electricity doesn’t mean it’s any different than paper.