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Blogger's Hippocratic Oath

Blog or Website
A writer friend of mine, Rob Asghar just wrote a collumn on bloggers, in which he cricizes many (most?) blogs as good at propoganda, but bad at truth telling, and things like accountability or attempts at "objectivity." Stinging criticism, but to me it has a ring of truth all too often. He makes a great suggestion of a Hippocratic oath of sorts for bloggers, which I happily subscribe to for the TalkingDonkeys blog...and invite comments pointing out where I fall short. Here is his bit:

"Blogging is primarily the place of the propagandist, of the partisan who is not held accountable for distortions. Bloggers should not attempt to have it both ways, boasting about how they are transparent and public in their biases, while coveting the journalistic status that goes to those who aim, however clumsily, to rise above personal bias.

"Reporters have to be able to stand in someone else's shoes and really understand their perspective," Dan Cray, a colleague who works as a contributor to Time and other publications, says. That is precisely the gift of intellectual honesty and empathy that most bloggers lack.

A Hippocratic Oath could separate the journalistic sheep from the goats. Borrowing from the old physician and from the codes of ethics of some professional journalistic organizations, let's try one out:

"I swear by whatever is dear and holy to me that I will fulfill to the best of my ability this oath:

-- 'I will endeavor to keep a free citizenry informed and educated so that it might make wise decisions regarding its internal and external affairs.'

-- 'While acknowledging the difficulty of objectivity, I will endeavor to bring a humble quest for truth in my work, characterized neither by arrogant dogma nor by cynical relativism.'

-- 'I will not be the tool of progagandists, who care less for honest debate and more for manipulating others into their desired course of action.'

-- 'I will not be a propagandist myself. I will not manipulate the flow, style or content of my reporting in order to subtly represent one point in a debate as being more enlightened than other. I will endeavor to rise past my inbuilt biases and assumptions, so that I might represent reality as well and fairly as I can.'

-- 'I will avoid professional conflicts of interest. I will be a respecter of confidences. I will not entrap people into self-incrimination. I will disown sources who trade in partisan rumors and innuendo.'

-- 'I will be cautious with the reputations of others and will give an opportunity for others to respond to allegations. I will also be bold in speaking truth to power, and I will not be ideologically selective in when I choose to question authority.'"
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8/20/2005 09:18:00 AM

Objectivity? Since when to blogs have to be objective? What is a blog for if not expressing one's opinion?    



8/20/2005 09:57:00 PM

Hi Terrance,

A fair point, since many blogs function mostly as personal soapboxes or Op Ed editorials...some blogs are in essence "news" blogs, and many are mixes of the two.

But even Op Ed articles usually reference facts, and the question is how well do they do that?

When I read Rob's words on objectivity, I didn't read them to be dissing having a strong opinion and expressing it as convincingly as possible...but that you don't sacrifice facts or truth in the
process...    



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