Reporting on the Job

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Jon Garfunkel wants to know what I think about the whole Scoble tirade and what he calls his eventual backpedalling over the Chinese blogger “Mr. Softee” iced.

I feel that Scoble was courageous in voicing his opinion in the matter and I don’t feel he retreated. However, he touches on a much bigger issue at hand here relating to the notion of reacting in “blog time.” The open question is this: to what length should bloggers go to verify the truth?

When I blogged about Heidi Klumgate earlier today, should I have stopped what I was doing to pick up the phone to call Germany? I played it safe by saying Klum’s papa allegedly contacted the blogger via email. For all we know, this could be a forged email.

Much the same, when I blogged about “hacking” Google Book Search last week, Danny Sullivan took issue with the fact that I didn’t call them first to ask if this was a bug or a feature. He’s right. I didn’t pick up the phone to call 1-800-4GOOGLE.

The blogs vs. journalism debate is as old as the medium. I do not personally subscribe to the notion that most of us are journalists. Some, like Danny, are trained journalists who now blog. The gang at Weblogs Inc. are a degree closer to journalists because they’re pro bloggers and part of a big media company. For the rest of us, blogging is our sideline. We have day jobs, often times tied to what we cover. Most bloggers I think correct their posts when they find out they are wrong.

So when publishing, should citizen journalists/bloggers call sources before they put fingers to Web? Or should they publish and then later correct if necessary when damage may be done. I think there are as many answers to the question as there are bloggers and it will continue to be this way for a long time.

Steve Rubel is a PR strategist with nearly 16 years of public relations, marketing, journalism and communications experience. He currently serves as a Senior Vice President with Edelman, the largest independent global PR firm.

He authors the Micro Persuasion weblog, which tracks how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the public relations practice.

Reporting on the Job
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