Even webloggers have ethics

Markos "Kos" Moulitsas, the publisher of the influential liberal weblog Daily Kos, has gotten into a heated debate with a professional journalist about ethics.

In response to criticism that it was unethical to publish exit polls while voting was still going on, Kos suggested that webloggers may be exempt from the ethical considerations of mainstream journalists:

... blogs aren't necessarily bound by journalistic ethics. As a blogger, I make my own rules. People don't like them, they are welcome to head elsewhere to get their information.

As much as I love to bash journalists, I think Kos is completely missing the boat on this one. Ethics aren't a concern that varies by profession -- you either demonstrate them in your conduct or you don't. Webloggers don't deserve a free pass on ethical considerations simply by virtue of the format they use to reach an audience.

The excuse that the audience provides a check on a weblogger's behavior, simply because they are free to go elsewhere if he offends, would work for any medium -- including the ones used by those stodgy old professional journalists we're scrutinizing.

If Kos wants to publish exit polls because he thinks there's a compelling reason to do so, great. Using the excuse that weblogs are the "wild west" is weak. Only a handful of webloggers revealed the name of Kobe Bryant's accuser, even though it was widely disseminated on the Web and was even revealed on a syndicated radio talk show. That alone should demonstrate that ethical considerations trump format.

Comments

1. Good point about Kos -- it's stupid to withhold the exit poll data, but saying that different rules apply somehow to bloggers and mainstream media doesn't make any sense.

2. It's interesting that the ethic on rape cases is that people broadcast the name of the "innocent-til-proven-guilty" suspect nonstop (hell, I can buy Kobe rape case *merchandise*) but the alleged victim's name is treated like some TSA watch list whose revelation would threaten national security and likely bring on the apocalypse.

Though I never revealed that woman's name either, I disagree with the media's decision to keep the name of rape victims private while other victims are identified. It contributes to the notion that the victim has done something to be ashamed of, and it ignores the fact that rape victims aren't the only ones who might suffer as a result of publicity. Either name them all or exclude them all.

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