I had downloaded “Reporters without Borders Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents” some time ago. The handbook is a collection of articles from various authors that has been assembled as a how to guide. Something pressed me to open and read it yesterday morning. It’s really geared toward bloggers acting as journalists in situations where journalists are censored and/or prohibited, but after reading it, I believe its principles apply to life in general as well.
There is a section on ethics and what ethics a blogger might have. The author, Dan Gillmor, says ethics is quite simple for him. It’s honor. Without honor one cannot be trusted. A look at the definition of the word honor says it is “adherence to what is right” and a synonym is ethics. But the other synonyms give a better look at what honor means: integrity, morality, honesty, reliability, decency, goodness. High ideals with a “great deal of territory” within the meaning of the word as Dan Gillmor put it.
Principle 1: Act with honor in all areas of your life to be trusted.
Good journalism has the following attributes as its foundation: thoroughness, accuracy, fairness, transparency, and independence.
Thoroughness is gathering as many facts and opinions as possible to present a true and accurate picture. Dan goes on to say that it is also “asking our readers for their input”. Hhhmmmm . . . Is he saying that I should allow in the trolls? I’m sure that’s not what he’s saying, but at the same time it is. I can’t have the good without the bad. Plus, I do . . . ahem . . . have the ability and flexibility to “censor” the comments, just as I have the ability to prevent them altogether. Which brings up a whole other dilemma. I do not fancy dealing with crappy comments. Though, who am I to decide which comments are “crappy”. Am I to be the government censor, which is a position and act that I deplore altogether in a free world?
From that simple question the answer springs truthfully: NO.
Principle 2: Be thorough (and do unto others as you would have others do unto you)
The second part of the foundation is accuracy. Be factual, say what you do as well as do not know, and correct mistakes promptly.
Fairness is the third piece of the bedrock. Dan says it’s, among other things, “listening to different viewpoints” and allowing people to respond when THEY believe you are wrong. “The first rule of having a conversation is to listen . . .”
Principle 3: Be fair. God gave us two ears and one mouth so we could do twice as much listening as talking.
Transparency and independence are all about disclosure, clarity of source, and lack of bias when possible. Awareness of our own personal biases and prejudices and challenging them is part of personal growth and, as put by Jeff Jarvis from buzzmachine.com, conversation leads to understanding. And the first rule of having a conversation? Listen.
Principle 4: “Ethics requires listening.”
There it is in a nutshell. To be ethical, honorable, trusted, fair, we must listen. Not just hear, but listen. Turning the comments on.*
*See Comments Etiquette