Saturday, June 14, 2008

Are Genea-Bloggers Journalists?

This morning I was reading an interesting story that came across the Associated Press newswire entitled "Trainers Help Bloggers Hone Professionalism" and it got me to wondering: as a genea-blogger do I consider myself a journalist? Do I have the same responsibilities as a journalist in terms of fact-checking, risk of being libelous - or am I really an "opinionist"?

The crux of the article is this: many bloggers are now realizing that they can benefit from training, tips and tricks given by professional journalists. Bloggers are participating in workshops and seminars, both local and long-distance, such as those given by the Society of Professional Journalists in Chicago, in order to improve their writing and reporting skills.

When you read the article, don't be put off by the "scare tactic" tone in the beginning which, while I found un-nerving, I'm not sure applies to genea-bloggers:

"Miami real estate agent Lucas Lechuga began blogging to share his knowledge of the local market. He didn't bargain for a $25 million defamation lawsuit when he wrote that a Miami developer had gone bankrupt decades ago.

In Lake Geneva, Wis., commodities trader Gary Millitte registered the Internet domain name LakeGenevaNews.com eight years ago, but is so worried about the legal boundaries of writing online that he still hasn't started the ultra-local news site."

I think that since genea-bloggers "report" on the subject of genealogy which is all about (or should be all about) research and fact-checking, we tend to be more cautious in what we write and do much more evaluation of the message our postings convey.

I'm not sure about you, but part of my role as genea-blogger, as I see it, is educator and trainer. Many of my readers are new to genealogy and as I was, about 15 years ago, I didn't know much about citations and sources and documentation.

But given that, and since the Society of Professional Journalists is based right here in Chicago where I live, I am thinking about taking any training or seminars they might offer to bloggers.

Questions: Have you ever had a difficult situation involving one of your posts on your blog? Has it resulted in a dispute, either private (via email) or public (via counter-posting on another blog)? Is this a topic, that of "truth in blogging," that worries you?

5 comments:

looking4ancestors said...

Thomas,
Well isn't this all a bit scary? To think that I might be sued for posting something on my blog. Although I do provide my sources when writing about my ancestors, I obviously need to update my blog with a disclaimer.

Kathryn

Randy Seaver said...

Thomas,

Oh yes, a genea-blogger can get into big-time trouble. I've been almost sued on a number of charges for an offhand comment that implied a writer had copied something from another writer.

Check out http://www.geneamusings.com/2007/06/smithsonian-mag-cover-why-genealogy-is.html.

Cheers -- Randy

Apple said...

I'm not worried about anything I have written on my genealogy blog. I do write about work occasionally on another blog. I once had a fight on my bus and wrote about it in very broad terms, nothing that would identify anyone. One of the parents brought suit against the district (because of the fight, not my blog) and I quickly deleted the post before anyone could stumble across it. I rarely write about work anymore except in very broad terms.

SCHELLY TALALAY DARDASHTI said...

Hi, Thomas

I am a journalist, have worked for papers, done freelance etc. and consider myself a genealogy journalist (most of my freelance work is on genealogy). I am usually keenly aware of what I write (there are chaotic exceptions!) as my training is journalism. It took awhile for me to inject personal opinions into postings, as this is rarely a journalistic experience, which tends toward the facts, just the facts. As a journalist it is easier as there are layers of editors above you who take much of the responsibility. As bloggers, we are our own writers, editors, publishers and ad departments. It behooves all of us to think about what we write and how we write it.

Schelly Talalay Dardashti
Tracing the Tribe - The Jewish Genealogy Blog
http://tracingthetribe.blogspot.com

SCHELLY TALALAY DARDASHTI said...

Hi, Thomas

I am a journalist, have worked for papers, done freelance etc. and consider myself a genealogy journalist (most of my freelance work is on genealogy). I am usually keenly aware of what I write (there are chaotic exceptions!) as my training is journalism. It took awhile for me to inject personal opinions into postings, as this is rarely a journalistic experience, which tends toward the facts, just the facts. As a journalist it is easier as there are layers of editors above you who take much of the responsibility. As bloggers, we are our own writers, editors, publishers and ad departments. It behooves all of us to think about what we write and how we write it.

Schelly Talalay Dardashti
Tracing the Tribe - The Jewish Genealogy Blog
http://tracingthetribe.blogspot.com