Update: It's now June, and I've learned alot on the last six months, mostly by getting into some rather important and interesting dialogues with bloggers and journalists...since my vocabulary has evolved, and in looking back at this post, I realize that what I was looking for from Hamsher was transparency. I wanted to know more about her background--specifically what she'd done before blogging for Huffington Post. I did extensive google and yahoo searches on the day of this post, and found realitively little information about her. That was troubling to me because I knew a great deal about the others on the panel. My feelings were, and still are, that if someone is to be on a panel, I want to know everything about who he/she is.I expect the person to be transparent. Transparency earns trust. If the person isn't willing to tell me outright, and the event he/she is participating in is only giving me a soundbyte, I should be able to use whatever search engines I have at hand to find all the information necessary to know about this person. The person should have a bio that tells me who he/she is, her experience both past and present.
I have been on panels. I know people check backgrounds--as soon as my profile's up, I get googled and people find their way back to my blogs. At the time of this post, I did what I could to verify Hamsher's background and came up with nothing other than the official Huffington Post soundbyte. I came up with less information than someone could have found out about me, or any other of a number of bloggers I know, at that time. Something was just not right.
In effect, I expected transparency. When there is transparency, I can respect that person--even if he/she doesn't have an illustrious background--more than I can respsect someone who says he/she is a "blogger" and leaves it at that. Why? Because, quite frankly, the term "blogger" is, right now, subjective. It can mean someone who uses a particular tool (a blog) to communicate. It can be someone who's mastered a communication form. It can be related to a businessperson, am activist, a former reporter, a thinker or just an average schmoe looking for a voice in the media malestrom.
I do not believe that we should hide behind the subjective label of "blogger" in order to get some sort of cred with the common man--or common woman. I don't think anyone should try to be a blogger just because it's All The Rage and The Cool Thing To Be.
All bloggers may be created equal--we use the same tool. But some bloggers--by their backgrounds and the editorial process behind them--are, in the eyes of many, more equal than others.
The other term I've become very familiar with is astroturfing. The term is usually associated with political orgs that pay or otherwise support individuals in commenting, emailing, or snailmailing efforts that simulate a grassroots opinion campaign. The main hallmarks of blog comment astroturf are a series of sentiments with similar syntax left by sources that cannot be verified, or are anonymous/pseudonymous. There are many ways to say "you suck," but if a number of comments appear saying "you suck," and in a very similar manner, or are all anonymous/pseudonymous and/or unverifiable, you can bet the comments are astroturfing efforts of an org to get someone to never blog again.
In Blogger, there are ways for 'turfers to give the semblance of being legit--set up a false profile, with no trackable information, and no blog, just to comment.
One way to root out 'turfers, other than noticing their shoddy syntax and lack of identity, is to track the comments back thru a blog's stats (if you have the stats package to do that) If a series of comments are generated from the same ISP, or from the same geographic area in a short period of time, it's probably 'turf.
'Turfers are bullies, and many think they are justified in their actions because their cause is righteous. Yeah, and terrorists often feel the same way.
When I looked back at the number of negative comments, not just noting how many were anonymous, I also noticed how so many said the same thing. I wasn't able to verify if they were all from the same ISP (I have the freebie Sitemeter, so no perks), but I've got an inkling that a number of them were Astroturf.
Transparency remains one of my big concerns (right now, a bit more that astroturfing). Some members of the MSM would like journalists to reveal personal info about themselves in efforts to avoid conflicts of interest. Some newsrooms are putting out good efforts to be transparent by opening up about their editorial processes. Bloggers are fighting MSM over transparency--and I think each and every one who engages the debate has his/her own reason for not being transparent. But if a blogger is already revealing a likeness and a name, why hide in an effort to be "just a blogger"?
What then is "just a blogger"? Sometimes "just a blogger" isn't quite a blogger like another unknown blogger. Sometimes "just a blogger" should be more transaprent than even the high profile folks of MSM. Otherwise, he/she is in the same opaque-bottomed boat as MSM, and, perhaps, just as deceptive. end
Today, the Washington Post will demonstrate to bloggers all over the U.S. that women bloggers don't need much in the way of credentials to be part of a serious discussion on ethics when it host a panel on Ethics and Interactivity with Jane Hamsher sitting alongside Jay Rosen (who is probably the most qualified),
Jeff Jarvis (who's being quiet on this one), and
Glenn Reynolds (who truly puts the PUNDIT in Instapundit).
And, on behalf of my corner of the blogosphere, I'll say it loud: Jane Hamsher?
The Post and Jay Rosen prominently list her as blogging at firedoglake...but only the Post lists her as blogging at Huffington Post
Hmmm...why doesn't Jay list her as blogging for HP? Is it some sort of veiled attempt to make a Hollywood top-down communicator look like your Average Jane blogger?
What is even further insulting to all bloggers--and women bloggers especially--is that Hamsher has no background in journalism, nor ethics, nor handling comments. Hamsher says, though, in one post: "I can only speak about my own experience, as a blogger who regularly converses with numerous main stream media journalists." (BTW, I do this, too...)*Note: I followed the same soundbyte trail to find out about Jane as I did awhile ago to find out about Jeff, Jay and Glenn--from a link from another blog, to their blog, to their bio. Also, note that on the WaPo site, they tell us a great deal about J, J, & R, but not a lot about Jane, the only one of the group who was not one of the Usual Suspects. Why did the Post fail me, a soundbyte consumer, and tell me virtually nothing about the one woman on the panel and, once again, recite the pedigrees of the men? Do I really need the credentials of the Usual Suspects? Kinda odd to keep mum about the newbie, don't you think?
I love the way she so modestly calls herself a blogger when, in fact, that's hardly the case. According to her bio, she is a Hollywood Personage--a producer above anything else. She has blogged for her friend Arianna since September, '05 She co-blogs at firedoglake (yes, not even her own blog), and has only recently begun receiving comments--and I'm not even sure if she responds to them or just lets them accumulate.
The Post is merely proving to all of us out here in the blogosphere that celebrity more than anything bestows credibility. Jane Hamsher, blogging only since September, now, all of a sudden, knows so much more than so many of us about ethics, blogging, and journalism, that she is qualified to be on a Washington Post panel.
Frankly, if I were Jay, Jeff, and Glenn, I'd be seriously questioning the Post's decision to include Hamsher on the panel. Why couldn't the Post find y'all a peer? Someone with the credentials and the smarts to be on this panel?
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