Let’s talk about citizen journalists.  It’s a topic of one of our PRSA lunches this year.  And it’s becoming even more prevalent as the big companies (Microsoft and Edelman have asked bloggers to review Vista software) take a run at the blogosphere.

The idea of citizen journalism is best described by Mark Glasser:

The idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others. For example, you might write about a city council meeting on your blog or in an online forum. Or you could fact-check a newspaper article from the mainstream media and point out factual errors or bias on your blog. Or you might snap a digital photo of a newsworthy event happening in your town and post it online. Or you might videotape a similar event and post it on a site such as YouTube.

I’d like to focus on “fact-check media”.  There have been many instances where bloggers have posted their opinion online but haven’t checked their facts.  In fact, many people still believe bloggers are really just gossip columnists out to spar their nemesis (or is it nemeses?) in a public domain.

A paper by Vincent Maher, the head of the New Media Lab at Rhodes University, refers to “ethics, economics, and epistemology” as being deadly when dealing with citizen journalists.

An article in 2005 by Tom Grubisich reviewed 10 new citizen journalism sites and found “many of them lacking in quality and content”.

Let’s begin a discussion about ethics and citizen journalism.  Should we fact check before we post blogs?  Is it okay to slander others when blogging, especially if we haven’t checked our facts?  When do blogs become gossip or slander vs. news?

Do we have a responsibility to fact check and make certain everything we blog about is ethical?