I generally don’t mix my “day job” with my posts for this blog. I’m not sure why—maybe because the subject matter is entirely different. Not much crossover between financial institutions and plants.
But lately, the topics of appropriate blogging behavior and the niche bloggers fill in the dissemination of information have come up in both worlds.
By day, I’m on a team of seasoned editors who manage and produce content for an impressive (if I might say so) array of print and online publications. Not a whole lot of hard-hitting investigative journalism. But these very talented editors take journalistic ethics and the role of journalists very seriously.
This week, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that an independent blogger who writes several law-centric blogs and has been involved in a defamation case is not protected by the state’s shield law. To learn more about this case, visit this post on blogworld.com, or this article in Time Magazine, or this one posted through The Wall Street Journal. Similar cases in other states have had similar results.
Many of us, however, aren’t convinced that independent bloggers should give up or that their work should be universally dismissed as unprofessional. There have been columnists and editorial writers as long as there have been journalists—maybe longer. Some are trained writers and journalists, and some aren’t.
Bloggers have evolved to serve many of the same functions as early opinion and advice columnists. There’s a valid niche for blogging, along with tweeting, feature writing, investigative journalism, and other reporting methods.
Through this blog, I convey a much lighter message. But recent discussion among the garden blogging community has introduced similar questions about the ethics and role of garden bloggers, specifically. For background on this debate, check out Colleen Vanderlinden’s post about “Garden Blogging and Free Stuff.”
My personal takeaways from both of these discussions:
- It’s OK for me as a professional business writer and a part-time garden writer to blog, within the acceptable standards of my employer and the garden writing community. Those standards are evolving, and it’s my duty to abide by them.
- Blogging, of any type, can be riskier (in some ways) than feature writing. Independent bloggers are finding they don’t share the same protections as employed journalists. (Should they?) But more than that, blogging involves sharing more personal information and often putting oneself “out there.” When writing an article for the company publication, the story is at the forefront. While this is sometimes true when blogging, most posts are written in the first person “I.” So the blogger is putting his or her opinions, personality, and thoughts at the forefront.
- Bloggers have choices to make. Those of us who are independent call all the shots. We can accept advertising, sell our content, review products, and partner with other organizations…or not. We can share basic information and experiences, our deepest thoughts, and details about our personal lives…or not. If we choose to do these things, we accept the rewards and responsibilities of those choices.
There are many more takeaways from these discussions—some of which are still forming as the Internet and communication evolve. But my biggest personal goals are to be true to myself, to aim for the highest possible integrity, and to realize that most of my greatest lessons learned are better shared with others than hidden under a bushel.