Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Jill Carroll Blogosphere Fiasco

Having been a member of online communities for over ten years and also administering one of the largest online communities in existence, I have always maintained that the #1 sport of all internet societies is navel gazing.

I, along with many, celebrated the release of hostage Jill Carroll on March 30th. The celebrations turned to puzzlement with her subsequent television statement filled with praise for her captors. Suffering serious shoot from the hipness many bloggers immediately began to vilify the freed journalist labeling her anti-American or worse.

I consciously decided to not post anything at the time because I felt it was much ado about nothing. To me the only thing that was relevant was the poor girl was safe and would soon be reuinited with her family. If I was held for three months by gun toting terrorists, I can't imagine the weirdness that might erupt from my mouth.

As we all know now, Carroll's statements were coerced. I think most of us who had held our tongue let a collective, well DUH! Occam's razor and all that.

Now comes the navel gazing. Many who jumped the gun have apologized. Some grew silent. Some are holding onto their initial statements and generally appearing bull fruit looney. The consensus among reasonable people is that it's a bad day for blogging. Have to say I agree.

One of my problems with all the "new media" is the rush to judgment with little or no editorial filters. There's a reason news reports take two sometimes three days to print a story. Everyone in this day of media microscopes wants to make damned sure they get a story right. No one wants to be "Rathered".

Too often blogs and talk radio do not step back, wait a beat and make sure everything is as it should be. There are some in the new media that wouldn't be able to find the word retraction with a dictionary only containing the letter R.

I am not going to link to any blogs on this. I especially don't want to send traffic to one particularly vile screed. But Joe Gandleman as always has an excellent round-up. He also provides some words of advice. I am going to reprint them here in their entirety. They are too important to miss and for online publishers, words to live by.


Use common sense when posting. This isn't censorship. Instead of definitively stating something as a fact or likely fact when there's no evidence wait until there are some facts. Because a blogger say someone hates America or is a fascist doesn't make it so.

There's a REASON why journalist use hedge words like "could be" or "one possibility is" or "it's possible that." Sometimes something that seems crystal clear is NOT if you look at it and take a deep breath.

Do weblog writers want to be considered analysts with edgy commentary whose views should be taken seriously or people who are constantly outraged and on the attack (even against each other)? It's a choice every person who writes a weblog writes with each post they do. A little bit of thought never hurt. For instance, when someone posts a screaming, adjective-filled entry putting labels on someone does that writer realize that his post is now recorded for posterity on the Internet? It's not just a matter of short term (that story) credibility, but overall (your body of work with your name on it) credibility.


Accountability and credibility should rule all our lives. In this nascent world of the blogs, it has to be the standard.


stevem said...

Well, I can say that I held the author at gunpoint for well over a year, and he certainly did spew some really weird crap.

griftdrift said...

Check please!