Adam Cohen has a long-winded, flat-footed piece on the NYT editorial page about bloggers and ethics. He wants more rules -- a code -- to bind bloggers to the same ethical standards that bind journalists. Eason Jordan and Dan Rather got into a lot of trouble when they violated the journalistic code of ethics, but their "misdeeds would most likely not have landed them in trouble in the world of bloggers, where few rules apply."
Please. The journalistic code didn't keep Jordan and Rather in line. It was the bloggers, invoking their own standards -- not a code but an evolving culture -- that called them to account. Any bloggers with any kind of high profile will be similarly called to account if they violate the blogosphere's cultural norms. And Jordan and Rather can take up blogging any minute they want. Our practice is open to anyone who wants to join.
The difference is, there's no pedestal to jump right on top of and have an instant readership as there is when you're hired on by mainstream media. We only have the readership we can attract with the strength of our own writing. We have to build that readership and keep it with constant writing. No one would ever be in a position to invoke a rule and fire us. It's all a matter of whether the readers stay or go. In a sense, we're constantly getting hired and fired in tiny increments as individuals decide whether or not to click to our sites one more time. We're living on the edge. Mainstream journalists can whine and look on with jealousy over the things that bind them and not us, but they've got their pedestal and their paycheck, and we don't. We deserve to be different.
And the great value of the blogosphere is that, in this difference, we are constantly engaged in creating something new. Is that hard for MSM to adapt to, to get a grip on? Good!
UPDATE: Citizen Z gives Cohen the tweak he so richly deserves for claiming that the call for a code of ethics is coming from the blogosphere.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Larry Ribstein has the most pro-code piece I've seen. Mindles H. Dreck says there is no institution -- no Bloggers Guild -- to adopt and enforce a code, so the whole idea makes no sense. Steven Taylor knocks Cohen about corrections: we're much better than MSM at making corrections.
YET MORE: Christine Hurt asks: "What is a 'code of ethics'? Sarbanes-Oxley requires reporting companies to have one posted on their website, and apparently journalists have one, too. The Pink Ladies and the T-Birds had a 'code' in Grease 2."
AND: I love Jeff Jarvis's comprehensive attack (especially the part where he quotes Cohen, interlaced with his own retorts in brackets).
So what do you think: is Cohen reading all the bloggers who are responding to him? Is he enjoying all the linkage?