Monday, May 15, 2006

...and, finally, I wasn't wearing any pants

In my American Journalism Ethics class, we finished up the semester with a discussion of blog ethics in the context of Citizen Journalism, that noble notion that just as every star grants a wish every blogger is a journalist.

As Ernest Hemingway said in another context (and Hemingway really was a journalist except for all the times he wasn't): "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

It is pretty. It's very pretty.

Anyway, in class I have a very nice Powerpoint presentation of Rebecca Blood's six rules for ethical blogging.

(Full disclosure: I have no idea who Rebecca Blood is and thus no reason to embrace her rules other than their inherent wisdom. But what a cool name. If, indeed, it is hers in the sense of being born to it other than simply liking its looks and moving in.)

Back to anyway. Here is Rule Three.

3. Publicly correct any misinformation.

If you find that you have linked to a story that was untrue, make a note of it and link to a more accurate report. If one of your own statements proves to be inaccurate, note your misstatement and the truth. Ideally, these corrections would appear in the most current version of your weblog and as an added note to the original entry. (Remember that search engines will pull up entries without regard to when they were posted; once an entry exists in your archives, it may continue to spread an untruth even if you corrected the information a few days later.) If you aren't willing to add a correction to previous entries, at least note it in a later post.

Yesterday I wrote that John Updike and Philip Roth were octogenarians. Later in the day I looked it up. They aren't. Each is in his early seventies. At that point I changed the entry. According to Rebecca Blood, to make that change after the fact and not to note that change is unethical.

Of course, as is so often true, the "why" of the mistake is more interesting than the "what." Updike and Roth are writers I admired when I was 20 years old. By definition, they are of the pantheon. They were the gods of my youth. That they are only ten years older, that if you saw the three of us across a crowded room -- yes; we are striking men; you would feel impelled to fly to our side -- you would conclude we were a matched set....

I feel somehow diminished. In a just universe they would both be dead.

And nicely bronzed.

1 comment:

B. Wieder said...

Re Updike and Roth, you were not incorrect, just premature, a characteristic that Dame Edythe has hinted is not uncommon in the household.