Ethical blogging isn’t one of the first things which you may be considering, when you compile your list of things to do as a small business owner. However, just as we have rules and regulations governing the way in which we fill out our tax returns, or the amount of expenses which we can claim, so many people believe that we ought to have a set of rules which govern the ethical side of the blogging process.
Since blogs began, they have been hailed as a new form of self-expression, enabling people who previously had to struggle to be published to get their comments and ideas out there in front of a wide readership, at little or no cost. However, unlike with book publishing or film making, there is no editing process for blog writing, meaning that anyone has the full right and capability to post up anything at all which they feel like articulating, without risk of being censored.
The Cyber Journalist site has outlined a code of practice for bloggers which provides a set of guidelines for writers to produce content ethically and professionally. The code includes the following –
- 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.
You can read the full Bloggers’ Code of Ethics guidelines here.
In addition to the guidelines set out above, the code of practice includes accountability for making mistakes, inviting dialogue with readers, disclose any personal agendas and expose the unethical practices of other bloggers.
Having a set of rules in place for the blogosphere may seem like political overkill to many people, but it stands to reason that blogging should have its own rules in order to maintain quality standards and support ethical and serviceable communications practices.