Friday, October 16, 2009

Bloggers' Code of Ethics

I got a chance to catch up with Patricio Mangubat who writes the blogs New Philippine Revolution, Pinoy Observer, and Filipino New Network at Annabels a while back. 

During a brief smoking session at the gathering sponsored by Joey De Venecia III, we had a little chat about coming up with a Code of Ethics for bloggers and putting up an organization of bloggers just like the National Press Club, which I assume will persuade the Filipino blogging community to blog more ethically.

Patricio, having studied law at the University of the Philippines, said that he was already in the thick of crafting a Code of Ethics for bloggers and was already organizing a group that would promote this Code of Ethics.

I praised him for his efforts and it is actually a good idea to do this, but also said I don't think a Code of Ethics for bloggers needs to be written at all since there are already a vast number of such codes available out there. 

Besides, you already know of my aversion for words and phrases that tend to give off  an impression that the writer is trying to look smarter than he or she really is.  I have a more folksy idea of "ethics", and I describe it as behavior that one needs to adopt in order to function as part of a community.  Sure, it might be too simple, but I think that is the heart of it.

Anyway, just to prove the point that a Blogger's Code of Ethics need not be written, I'd like to point you to a Code of Ethics for bloggers in a post shared by Ding Gagelonia on Facebook which comes from the blog of Danilo Arao. (How's that for source attribution?)
This Code of Ethics came from Cyber Journalist dot net

Be Honest and Fair
Bloggers should be honest and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
Bloggers should:
  • Never plagiarize.
  • Identify and link to sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
  • Make certain that Weblog entries, quotations, headlines, photos and all other content do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
  • Never distort the content of photos without disclosing what has been changed. Image enhancement is only acceptable for for technical clarity. Label montages and photo illustrations.
  • Never publish information they know is inaccurate -- and if publishing questionable information, make it clear it's in doubt.
  • Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.
  • Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

Minimize Harm
Ethical bloggers treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect.
Bloggers should:
  • Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by Weblog content. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
  • Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
  • Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance.
  • Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy.
  • Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
  • Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects, victims of sex crimes and criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.

Be Accountable
Bloggers should:
  • Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
  • Explain each Weblog's mission and invite dialogue with the public over its content and the bloggers' conduct.
  • Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas.
  • Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence content. When exceptions are made, disclose them fully to readers.
  • Be wary of sources offering information for favors. When accepting such information, disclose the favors.
  • Expose unethical practices of other bloggers.
  • Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.
I am all for ethical conduct, but just how do you enforce it?

The reality is that even the KBP and the Philippine Press Institute are challenged when it comes to enforcing the standards of ethical behavior.  They actually have very specific rules that govern the practice of ethical journalism, they have people whose main job is to make sure people follow rules, and they actually have a pretty small number of organizations to look after.  And yet certain members of the media persist in practices that imperil the reputation of their company as well as their personal reputation.

So, what do you do when you are attacked by a malicious blog?  There are ways of dealing with this and that will be the subject of my next post.

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