While it’s fine and good to leave a comment where neither you nor an anonymous blogger know one another, what happens when you do know the anonymous blogger and it’s clear that they want to remain anonymous? This post tries to engage with this question, and focuses on the challenges that I experience when I want to post on an ‘anonymous’ blog where I know who is doing the blogging – it attends to the contextual privacy questions that race through my head before I post. As part of this, I want to think through how a set of norms might be established to address my own questions/worries, and means of communicating this with visitors.
I’ve been blogging in various forms for a long time now – about a decade (!) – and in every blog I’ve ever had I use my name. This has been done, in part, because when I write under my name I’m far more accountable than when I write under an alias (or, at least I think this is the case). This said, I recognize that my stance to is slightly different than that of many bloggers out there – many avoid closely associating their published content with their names, and often for exceedingly good reasons. Sometimes a blogger wants to just vent, and doesn’t want to deal with related social challenges that arise as people know that Tommy is angry. Others do so for personal safety reasons (angry/dangerous ex-spouses), some for career reasons (not permitted to blog/worried about effects of blogging for future job prospects), some to avoid ‘-ist’ related comments (sexist, racist, ageist, etc.).
I rely on other people to produce content for me to consume, and I reciprocate by providing my own content (via this blog, government submissions, submissions to alternative news sites, interviews on radio, etc.) to the public. I see this as a reciprocal relationship, insofar as anyone can come here and use my content so long as they abide by my creative commons license. Unfortunately, most advocates for newspapers would see what I do (i.e. blog, think publicly) as unequal to their own work. I’m just an amateur, and they’re the professionals.
One of my colleagues recently linked me to a statement that David Simon presented to Congress about the life or death of newspapers. His argument is (roughly) that bloggers and other ‘amateurs’ cannot be expected or trusted to perform the high quality journalism that these ‘amateurs’ then talk about online (Note from Chris: clear case in point, the critical analysis by journalists of the Bush administration and Iraq compared to bloggers. Oh…wait…). You need dedicated professionals who are professionally trained to generate consistently high quality and accurate content. At the same time, the for-profit model of newspapers has led them to cannibalize their operations for profit. Newspapers will perish if capitalism and the market are seen as ‘solutions’ to the demise of newspapers, just as amateur culture and their appropriation of media will destroy content producers. Something must be done.
The past couple of days have been interesting, to say the least, when looking at recent shifts and decisions in American legislatures. Specifically, the House is looking to shield bloggers from federal investigations by providing them with the same protections as reporters, and that after the telecommunication companies that ‘theoretically’ (read: actually) cooperated with NSA spying activities have refused to cooperate with Congressional investigations that they have been let off the hook. Let’s get into it.
Federal Journalists and Professional Bloggers Shielded
The US has had a long history of journalistic freedoms, but in the face of recent technological advances they have refused to extend those freedoms to users of new journalistic mediums. Bloggers, in particular, are becoming a more and more important source of information in the US – some dedicate their lives to blogging and use it for professional gain. Until recently they have (typically) been refused the same status as traditional journalists, which has made it risky for bloggers to refuse to disclose their sources if hauled into courts of law.
The essay that I am discussing was one of the two that won The Dalton Camp Award this year. You can read the full version of the essay at the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting website.
Generally, Lewis’s argument can be summed up in his line “thanks to weblogs, any civic-minded citizen with a computer, a modem and the moxie to express their opinions can contribute to the media and the public dialogue.” Blogs provide a way for citizens to break through the increasing corporate control of media outlets – only 1% of newspapers are independently owned today,and in this environment blogs offer a way to expand the number of news sources because its low cost of entry. Free services such as Blogger and Livejournal, where all of the hard work is done by a company behind the scenes, are perfect for citizen-journalists to quickly begin publishing.