Reporting on the Job

    January 4, 2006

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.