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Blogging Ethics

Is blogging a form of journalism?

That question is being batted about in DC because of a decision by the federal court to reserve seats for two bloggers to sit among “regular” reporters at the trial of Scooter Libby beginning next week.

The discussion of the journalistic status of bloggers is interesting enough but it was a survey that accompanied the article that caught my eye.

Researchers found that about one third of the bloggers questioned identify themselves as journalists and then asked whether they were abiding by five specific journalistic practices.

Spend extra time verifying facts
Quote other people directly
Get permission to post copyrighted material
Include links to original source material
Post corrections

You can debate all day about whether reporters and/or bloggers should be doing all those thing.

To me, the list reads like a list of ethical skills we should be teaching all students, whether they work online or not.

journalism, education, ethics


  1. Stephen Downes

    Four of the five are no-brainers. However there’s one that should be reconsidered:

    “Get permission to post copyrighted material”

    In many cases, journalists do *not* get permission to publish copyright materials, and indeed, if they sought permission, it would be denied.

    Journalists – and bloggers, and educators – are granted a certain amount of leeway under fair use provisions.

    It is interesting to watch the continues attempts to foster an ethic among online writers that would require that they obtain a consent when preprinting *any* copyrighted content.

    This is the sort of regime book and magazine publishers have managed to established, whereby authors must obtain approval for any quotation from an external source.

    Copyright isn’t absolute. It is a *limited* protection offered to authors to prevent a *commercial* exploitation of their work.

  2. tim

    Stephen makes some excellent points about copyright and fair use. Journalists, educators, students all have (or should have) rights to use excerpts from copyrighted materials without first seeking permission.

    We still need to teach students about their rights and responsibilities when it comes to copyright. So, instead of number 3 we substitute “Makes use of copyrighted material legally with appropriate attribution.”.

  3. Ms Cornelius

    I don’t consider myself a journalist, and I make no pretenes toward being one. I am just emoting all the little ideas that jangle around in my head– more editorializing than anything else. But some blogger do break news first. So I don’t know. Sorry for the cop-out.

  4. tim

    Like Ms. Cornelius, I don’t think of myself as journalist and I doubt more than a few of those in my blogroll do either. More than anything else, I’m just trying to spread some ideas around and possibly get people thinking about some issues that interest me.

    In the process, I’d like to think that I do adhere to a personal code of ethics in my posts, one similar to the list above. However, I certainly don’t want anyone who stumbles across these rantings to be misled into thinking this is anything like traditional journalism. :-)

  5. Seeking Sanity

    I have been made aware that Robert Cox is planning to arrange a seat at the Libby trial for one of his bloggers – a Lance Dutson of


    I have been following Mr Dutson’s blog for some time, and have come to find that most of his accusations appear to be brazenly untrue – untruths about which he has repeatedly been made aware. He has even admitted to knowing this a few times, but these admissions eventually disappear… and off he goes again, on another rant.

    Robert Cox informs me and others that he has never even read Dutson’s blog. I find this, if true, to be an act of extreme negligience.

    If you do read Dutson’s blog, you will see that the headlines are never corroborated by fact, but rather, the links point only to more of his own accusations, or even to documents which actually CONTRADICT his accusations.

    Apparently, people only read the headlines. And they believe them.

    He appears to get the most gratification out of making searingly vicious personal attacks on total strangers whom he somehow perceives as being enemies.

    He behaves like a web troll, and nothing else but. I find it very difficult to believe that anyone would assign a seat at the Libby trial, and its resultant journalistic credibility, to someone without ever having checked his credentials.

    Web trolls should be eliminated – not elevated.

  6. Seeking Sanity

    There is an update to this story…Cox admits that he did read Dutson’s blog up until May of 2006, but since then he as only “Skimmed” it I have some emails from him admitting this.

    Whole story here:


    Thank you–

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