Friday, July 15, 2005
Are newspaper sponsored blogs too risky?
It is well known that many reporters have begun their own blogs apart from their day jobs. Some, such as Daniel Finney, formerly of the St. Louis Dispatch, have gotten in trouble for publishing vitriol of their employers on their personal blogs. But what are the consequences of newspapers sponsoring blogs that their reporters write? An article at Wall Street Journal Online questions the practice for the potential legal problems it could pose for newspapers. Media lawyer Michael Rothberg worries that "It does create considerable additional libel risk for newspapers to have their reporters doing blogs that are not edited." The article uses the example of the San Jose Mercury News' sponsored blog SiliconBeat, whose two assigned tech reporters regularly include rumor, opinion and anonymous sources in their postings, skipping over the editing process usually associated with newspaper articles. One of the blog's authors, Michael Bazeley said, I could definitely see how in journalism circles people could look at what we do and be a bit nervous... but when we sit down to write news stories, we put on a totally different hat." Other postings on the blog are fairly written, as noted by the common consensus in the WSJ article that some recent news about Microsoft's potential acquisition of the Internet marketer Claria was well reported on the blog. Several papers around the US, including the Boston Globe and the Dallas Morning News, are toying with the sponsored blog idea, showing that newspapers are willing to risk publishing non-edited material. Former San Francisco Examiner editor Tim Porter supports the idea, saying "I'm interested in newspapers getting off their spot and doing something different, because they are increasingly less relevant." But the legal risks still remain. Do you think that newspapers are wise to add blogs, which can provoke lively reader interaction, to their websites? Or does an unedited column go against the grain of what newspaper reporting is all about? Can guidelines be established if blogs are to be a permanent fixture of the media landscape?
Source: Wall Street Journal Online
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