You Can't Have It Both Ways, Says the Journalist-Blogger

A few weeks ago, I posted an item on this blog critiquing an article about a colleague. Don't bother looking for that post; I've removed it for reasons I'll explain here.The subject of my blog entry contacted me a few days after the post went up. He was astounded that I'd written about him without calling him for his comments on my critique. We went back and forth in email: me, appalled that he'd call me out for writing my opinions about the article and about him; he, appalled that I would offer opinion based on an article without seeking direct comment from him to respond to some of the statements of fact I made. That stopped me cold: call someone because I was writing about them in a personal blog. How strange. We agreed to talk by phone, calmly, after I returned from a week away, which we did today. And I had my mind changed. Over at Wi-Fi Networking News, I pursue classical journalism combined with blogging. We summarize and analyze articles published elsewhere frequently, which is the classical blog paradigm, but we also write quite a lot of original journalism in which we interview sources, test hardware, call for comment on our suppositions. We engage in reportage that requires talking to many people to try to present fairly a point of view, even if we're writing opinion. Opinion must be backed by fact; conclusions can't be specious. The subject's point to me in the phone call is that blogs are journalism. They are publicly presented pieces of prose. If I'm arguing on the one hand that Wi-Fi Networking News is journalism and on the other that my personal blog is not -- then what am I saying? That I don't hold myself in less formal public writing to the same standards of fairness and accuracy? No. That I can write any old thing and have no regard for its impact? No. Now I'm not compelled to call subjects of my personal blog for comment on everything I write. But my colleague convinced me of a fact that others have tried to maintain: that the wall between blog and journalism is so thin now or non-existent that you can't pretend to have two sets of standards. It's not every day you have your mind changed, and I enjoy the experience. It's easy to maintain the same opinion all the time. If I want to be a journalist, then I have to be a journalist and abide by the standards I set for myself in all the forums in which I write or contribute to. I've removed the post that I wrote about the article because I'd have to rethink and rewrite to such an extent -- and get comment from the subject and others -- before feeling fair about posting it again. I haven't changed my mind about my conclusions, but there's a higher burden that I've set for myself now, and the time has passed where it makes sense to pursue it. (And, just by the way, I ran what I wrote here by the subject to confirm that my representation of his actions and statements match his own recollections. He declined to be identified for this blog post, but had no corrections to its substance.)