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For all the press that bloggers have received for revolutionizing journalism by bringing Gutenberg's printing press to the digital masses, when push comes to shove, journalists who operate personal weblogs face an inherent conflict of interest. In the end, it's the blogs that usually get short shrift.

But it's not just about who gets the scoops. A more serious question is how can bloggers, whose success depends largely on sharing unvarnished opinions, also work as so-called objective journalists?

"The New York Times" http://www.nytco.com/pdf/NYT_Ethical_Journalism_0904.pdf (.pdf) requires its staffers to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, and requires that no newsroom or editorial employee "do anything that damages the "Times's" reputation for strict neutrality."

Although the policy doesn't specifically cover blogs (yet), the "Times" prohibits staff from marching or rallying "in support of public causes or movements," and from signing "ads that take a position on public issues ... if doing so might reasonably raise doubts about their ability or the "Times's" ability to function as neutral observers in covering the news." Timesians may appear on radio and TV but "they should avoid expressing views that go beyond what they would be allowed to say in the paper." (Of course, Op-Ed columnists like Maureen Dowd and William Safire "enjoy more leeway than others in speaking publicly because their business is expressing opinions.")

Meanwhile, blog readers shouldn't worry that mainstream publications get the primo stuff either. Blogs are "a value-added proposition," Malik said. "I used to print out articles, stick them in a file and review them later. Now I just blog it. It's a repository for my thought process."

- "Heartaches of Journalist Bloggers," Adam L. Penenberg, Wired News http://www.wired.com/, January 13, 2005 http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,66251,00.htm

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File Name: adam_penenberg20050113

Post Date: January 14, 2005 at 7:00 AM CST; 1300 GMT