Junkfood Science: More proposals to regulate and license bloggers because we’re “too risky” :)

December 15, 2007

More proposals to regulate and license bloggers because we’re “too risky” :)

Internet bloggers should be monitored and regulated — said another mainstream journalist yesterday. Calling us “citizen journalists,” the reporter said that what bloggers do isn’t journalism and that we don’t have the “education, skill and standards” that make them the “trusted professionals.” The information provided by internet journalists, he said, is nothing short of gossip and is dangerous.

Uh-oh. Them’s fighting words and internet writers are firing back.

Before we share some of the internet buzz, you may want to read the article in question, by David Hazinski, that was actually published:

Unfettered 'citizen journalism' too risky

...Supporters of “citizen journalism" argue it provides independent, accurate, reliable information that the traditional media don't provide. While it has its place, the reality is it really isn't journalism at all, and it opens up information flow to the strong probability of fraud and abuse. The news industry should find some way to monitor and regulate this new trend... Advocates argue that the acts of collecting and distributing makes these people “journalists."... Education, skill and standards are really what make people into trusted professionals. Information without journalistic standards is called gossip.

But unlike those other professions, journalism — at least in the United States — has never adopted uniform self-regulating standards. There are commonly accepted ethical principals [sic]: two source confirmation of controversial information or the balanced reporting of both sides of a story, for example, but adhering to the principals is voluntary. There is no licensing, testing, mandatory education or boards of review. Most other professions do a poor job of self-regulation, but at least they have mechanisms to regulate themselves. Journalists do not.

So without any real standards, anyone has a right to declare himself or herself a journalist....But it is also ripe for abuse.

In other words, mainstream journalists are unbiased and present balanced reports of an issue? They also have the education to know what they’re reporting and their ethics are above reproach? Certainly there is a lot of junk on the net, but claiming it’s appreciably different from that in print and on television rests on flimsy evidence.

It’s a rare reporter with expertise in the field he/she is reporting on: one with a medical degree reporting on health and obesity, one with a food science degree reporting on food, and one with a science degrees reporting on science. This lends caution to things we read and hear online, as well as from mainstream media. But it's also important to realize that there is a distinct difference between factual reporting and balanced reporting. Journalism balance does not necessarily make the information more credible. As a scientist once told me, for example, media generally fails to report science credibly and make it helpful and clear to readers, not just because they often don’t understand it fully, are unable or uninterested in critically reviewing the research, or are afraid to cross the political and financial interests of those who will further their careers, but in their principle of giving equal space to both “sides,” what do they balance good science with?

Junk science!

But to head off the false information on the internet, Hazinski calls for:

· Major news organizations must create standards to substantiate citizen-contributed information and video, and ensure its accuracy and authenticity.

·They should clarify and reinforce their own standards and work through trade organizations to enforce national standards so they have real meaning.

· Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff's auxiliaries are trained and certified.

Journalists generally don't like any kind of standards or regulation. Many argue that standards could infringe on freedom of the press and journalism shouldn't be regulated. But we have already seen the line between news and entertainment blur enough to destroy significant credibility.

“In other words, all that is published and seen by the people should be passed through his screening process first!,” wrote Warner Todd Huston. I’ll let Mr Huston take it from here. His reactionary commentary may speak for a lot of bloggers and citizens who, like Thomas Jefferson, have stopped reading or trusting mainstream media:

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: News Media Should 'Regulate' New Media/Bloggers

In another arrogant piece from a “professional" journalist claiming that Internet journalism is “dangerous," one where the writer imagines that he is somehow the personification of truth in “reporting,"...David Hazinski seems to imagine that it's the job of the “news industry" to “monitor and regulate" the content of blogs and Internet journalism. No, I'm serious, he really said that!...

Lately, we have seen quite a few of these screeds against Internet journalism... Hazinski, a former NBC correspondent and current professor of telecommunications and head of broadcast news at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism, has graciously deigned to lower himself and his fellow “professionals" to the role of overlord, making sure we ignerint Internet writers conform to the obviously higher standards that he and his fellow journalists employ so successfully in their field — can you say Dan Rather and Jayson Blair?

Who does he think he is, the King of all information? Does he imagine that his presumed professorial position somehow has created for him a monarchy wherein he may determine what should be “allowed" to be called “journalism"? ...Before I go on, did you catch his seeming lamentation that there are no standards for journalism even here in the US? ... [Does he] realize that the “standards" that exist in other countries aren't “self-regulating" and only exist because the governments there either impose them on all forms of journalism or tyrannically run all news agencies themselves ... that most news agencies in the world are not free but are controlled and operated by government agencies, government appointees and government thugs? Are those the “standards" [he] laments us not having...?

The public and many bloggers know that they’re not getting the full story from mainstream media, although they may not realize the extent to which the truth is blocked and how effectively writers who do speak out are shut out. This blog and countless others would never been born if sound, balanced science about our health, food and weight were available in mainstream media. This author stopped counting years ago the queries — for well-researched, moderate articles — that were submitted to publications and rejected because they didn’t give readers the “proper message” about obesity and food. Last week, the health editor of a national newspaper said she wasn’t interested in an article about the latest CDC obesity statistics questioning an epidemic, equating such an article to “opinions.” Interestingly, she felt that they’d provided sufficient balance on the obesity issue because they’d published a staff-written story that “raised some of these very questions a couple of years ago.”

Huston goes on to write what most citizen journalists are probably thinking: that the line between news and entertainment [and I might add marketing] has long ago been blurred in mainstream media — enough to destroy much of its credibility. We must remember the history of American journalism, the concepts of liberty and a free press, he writes:

There has never been a time — and there is certainly not now — in the history of man where the “news" could be trusted merely because there are supposed to be “standards" involved in its publication. There has never been a source of news that can be trusted merely because they claim to be observing such “standards." What's more, over the years since the birth of Internet journalism, one of the chief products of the medium has been the exposing of the failures, lies, and bias of the so-called professionals. So, how can we trust to Hazinski's “journalism organizations," all of whom have been so continuously lambasted and exposed by this fledgling media, to properly regulate our work?

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