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emergence of online news and blogs. In turn, journalists who venture out as entrepreneurs can find an audience through blogs focusing on their particular niche. The standards of online publishing may be considered lax, though this is not always true. Savvy media consumers, journalists can only hope, will be able to tell the difference. The line between mainstream media and casual contributors to national discussions is difficult to draw. Whether it is our conception of bloggers or their own responsibility to their readers that throws the difference into sharper contrast. Politics and the consideration of so-called facts are divisive subjects these days. Whom you listen to and read can be used by political campaigns to determine how you will vote, according to Jim Messina. An individual can tune in or tune out and use one s respective immersion in one viewpoint or another to flush out any debate. This is an era when we dispute facts. An individual, in turn, can find a venue and community to dispense his or her ideals in the blogosphere. Something rumored to be true online one morning can be corroborated and hit mainstream news by the afternoon. It is a trend that Washington insiders like Messina can attest to and find difficult to get a handle on. The ethics of these writers and critics is considered dubious. Does an online poster consider a responsibility to readers or the consequences of his or her portrayal of so-called facts? Cyberjournalist.net has attempted to create a Bloggers
Code of Ethics based on the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, though it is still largely dependent on a blogger s discretion. Like the SPJ code, the Bloggers Code highlights honesty and fairness, minimizing harm, and accountability. Acting independently and accuracy are not glossed over or avoided, but the terminology is far less absolute. For instance, Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects and, Identify and link to sources whenever feasible are standards most journalists consider absolutes. However, Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance, is an adage that mainstream media might take to heart when considering the rights of the public. The relationship between journalists and bloggers is considered symbiotic and is defined as such by SearchSOA.com, an online community of Information Technology professionals. This grassroots and interactive journalism , according to SearchSOA, is interactive due to citizens ability to link to and discuss news features. Yet, many newsgathering organizations have been reticent to embrace blogging and prefer only microblogging (sharing short content, images, video, and links) and involvement in news aggregation. Yet, the public has become increasingly able to fact-check journalists and bloggers alike through content s proliferation across platforms and due to search engine indexing. The proliferation of content grows exponentially between content generated by the writer and the content of the reader, despite the fact that 99% of distributed links are from traditional media, according to the Pew Reasearch Center. Microblogging, using sites like Facebook and Twitter, allows users to easily generate a profile and make connections among their immediate community. In
Technorati¶s 2009 five-part series on the state of blogging, Matt Susman, a former editor of Technorati and sports editor at BC magazine, examines a Wall Street Journal poll of online microbloggers. He writes, ³Those who use Twitter say they do so to promote their blogs, bring interesting links to light, and
to understand what people are buzzing about. 50% of Part Timers say they use Twitter to market their businesses. Other uses of Twitter, like interacting with companies (24%), politicians (11%), and celebrities (9%), are much less popular.´
These figures illustrate the relative media IQ of consumers. Recent trends include corporate sponsorship of social media and ³share´ and ³like´ options that enable users to create a buzz over a product or service with the click of a button. Yet, according to the Pew Research Center, of the trends that appear on Twitter and blogs, only 5% and 13%, respectively, continue to trend a week later. Also, of the 49 weeks that Pew observed the main stories of blogs and traditional media, the two were alike for only 13 weeks. That figure dropped to 4 of 29 weeks in Twitter¶s case. The Internet operates irrespective of national borders or political parties. It is broadly accessible, unless an authoritarian regime is capable of censoring web access. According to a New York Times piece, more than 20 countries use blocking and filtering systems for Internet content. Censoring the web, in turn, encourages citizens to rebel and find a way around such obstacles. The practice is likened to a bank shot in basketball by the Times. Illicit computer programs reroute traffic through a server outside the blocked nation and constantly renew IP addresses in order to disorient tracking and blocking. Hosting a site outside of a nation such as China or Iran s control is a practical, though potentially dangerous, means of doing so. A Chinese computer science student in Atlanta, Georgia, who was involved in
sending contentious emails around China s firewall had his home invaded in 2006 by four men who beat him, searched his files, and stole his laptops. Peter Yuan Li believes these men were agents of the Chinese, but no arrests were made and the FBI had no comment. The fourth estate is a necessary branch of a democratic system. It influences not only business and entertainment but the information that citizens can interact with. The modern era has become characterized by citizen s desire to interact with the news and not simply to have it reported, analyzed and commentated for them. Bloggers gain respect by proving their reliability and accountability, just like journalists. Contributing worthwhile dialogue attracts readers, just like in journalism. Few bloggers attempt to mislead the public or are very successful in doing so, but the internet allows for a grey area that allows them that opportunity.