Scandal is not enough

May 25, 2007 at 3:51 pm (blogs, stupid)

The blog scandal continues. Earlier I posted a link to the site Patrica de Lille didn’t want mentioned. I figured it’s news and everyone is searching for it anyway. After reading Vincent’s comments I took the link off but not because I’m am scared of a judge – it’s because, ethically, it’s not a good thing to do.
It’s a bit of an awkward thing actually – the blogosphere is built on principles of free speech and saying what you want. But as a journalist, I can’t do something that is patently unverified and potentially false. That’s why I took the link off. It’s just against the principles of doing no harm if you can help it.
One half of me wants to say “it’s available anywhere” and blogs are about free speech then my rational side kicks in and says Vincent is right – we must not take our freedoms for granted and abuse it. We’ll see if the charges made on the sex blog is true, then we’ll talk again.
I feel thoroughly chastised.

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10 Comments

  1. Karen Lotter said,

    http://mybroadband.co.za/nephp/?m=show&id=6490

    You should read more than just vince’s comment. He workd for a big traditional media company – their lawyers have to be conservative. Look around, there are a few other opinions. i’ve spoken to some lawers and they just laughed. You won’t get into trouble if you publish the link.

  2. tbhanks said,

    Karen, hi. I know I won’t – that’s not why I did it. It’s not about the legal consequences, it’s about the ethical/moral consequences. Ten to one this guy is writing the truth but until then I shouldn’t be spreading it. It’s got nothing to do with being scared about being sued; it’s got everything to do with feeling bad about doing something I wouldn’t want done unto me.

  3. rrcatto said,

    Vincent is wrong. The media is reporting on the offending blog, but in a dishonest way.

  4. madamm said,

    Deontology. Teleology…

    oooh

  5. Karen Lotter said,

    I agree totally with you – I wouldn’t post it on my blog because it is sleazy – but this whole storm about threatening people with legal action – its like the bad old Big Brother days.

    And I’m amazed how everyone is suddenly trembling in their boots because of this so called being prosecuted for linking to the site and spreading the slander.

    Anyway i wonder what is Ms De Lille’s REAL agenda – Is Helen Zille maybe taking centre stage as the opposition politics lady?

    Why make a fuss because some annonymous rent boy alledges that a member of your party paid him for sex? It doesn’t make sense – you’re just drawing attention to the fact. Nobody has heard from the unfortunate Simon – just Patricia gaaning aan about paedophiles and broken homes.

  6. tbhanks said,

    That’s true Karen. I do think De Lille has taken a rather centre-stagish position even though her name isn’t on the blog.

    The threat of prosecution shouldn’t be the thing that makes us not link to that blog, rrcatto – it’s common decency. It became very easy to saddle the horse and ride with it when Patricia came out guns blazing, but in hindsight, it’s not something I would ever do in proper print media (unverified, hurts people, etc) without the requisite checks and balances.
    So in some ways Vincent is wrong (calling people nerds and so on – they do, after all, have the right to say what they want) but he did spur me on to think about the ethical considerations of linking to the prostitute blog.

    The trembling in the boots thing may apply to Vincent, Karen, but not to me. I know what media law says and Patricia would definitely have a hard time proving we’re liable for slander. But it’s the moral/ethical thing that drove me to remove it. Will watch with interest how this thing develops.

    Mrs M, shed some light on the ethical plight bloggers face, won’t you?

  7. madamm said,

    Well,
    Bloggers are not alone in their ethical considerations. Journalists are too. For instance, check a local newspaper
    s coverage on the story today. No mentions of names (cept Grindrod’s) and the rest just their occupation.
    Thing is, there are many things to consider- like causing harm or being accurate- these are all ethical values that are important in mainstream media. And now I see a call for a code of conduct from this again- rightly so, though many would vehemently oppose it- the point of a blog is exactly because it grants freedom to say whatever the hell you want, regardless- and so, in closing the question in my mind remains- SHOULD blogs be considered journalism?! Look at what its doing…And if it is to be considered journalism, are blogs then not supposed to conform to the principles traditional media is supposedly accustomed to- that includes a code of conduct?

  8. tbhanks said,

    But not all bloggers are journalists, only a handful are trained and currently working in the industry. So how would other non-journalist bloggers know what is ethical and what isn’t? Journalists get taught ethical principles in their very first classes so it sticks. But what of the dude who barely knows what ethics means?
    And, MrsM, does it make a difference in blogs are not considered journalism? Will it then exempt the bloggers from having to be legal, ethical and within reason?
    I think we’re at a crossroads here and it’s going to be interesting to see which path we head down.

  9. madamm said,

    My only reason for the comparison was because journalism is, essentially, the only valid practice of (writing) one can compare blogging to. All sorts of questions about the people behind the blog immediately spells irresponsibility (to many) and quite right not all bloggers are journalists- yet the mainstream media is taking note!
    I think its got to do with personal ethics as well. Did the guy behind this blog not have an agenda? Do we start blogs because we have agendas? (maybe) but I think what MAY happen is that hosts like wordpress/blogger, etc will be required to ask the potential blogger to agree to terms and conditions (I didn;t take note of any if there are). But that too, remains to be seen, as the old adage goes.

  10. tbhanks said,

    It’s definitely a valid comparison – there is actually nothing else to compare it to. So do you think bloggers should sign a code of conduct? Will it make a difference if they do if all bloggers are seen as irresponsible and fickle anyway?
    I don’t think they have terms and conditions but am not sure.

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