Blogs and Free Speech

Hi Writers,

I’ve been trying to convince writers—on the WD forum and elsewhere—that blogging can be good for their careers. Read this interesting article from Folio magazine on the new set of expectations publishers have of wannabe journalists.

But the prevailing notion I hear from writers is that blogging is some kind of farm league to get to the big show of the print world. It’s a new world and publishers are trying to stay in the game by adding engaging web content to their print repertoire. This is where you the writer come in—you can offer publishers that content. And I’m not talking about keeping a personal, diary-style blog, which has worked for some but can also be a professional landmine if you’re not careful (see the WD article “Blogged and Burned“).

Many writers will say to me something along the lines of: “Why should I have a blog? There are millions of blogs.” And that’s precisely the point. There’s so much bad content floating around on the Internet, a good writer who works hard will garner an audience there. Readers on the web are looking for trustworthy sources.

Which brings me to a fascinating article that ran in the New York Times this weekend that discuses the idea of a blogger code of conduct. Apparently folks who have thrown their hats into the blogging arena are finding out what journalists have always known—if you’re going to put yourself out there and people are reading you, you’re going to get feedback. And some of that feedback is going to be anonymous and crazy.

But I do like this idea of imposing some manners onto your blog visitors if you so choose (which is why, if you use a certain four-letter word on the WD forum, it’s going to come up like this ****).

We’re writers, masters of the communication arts, shouldn’t we be taking the lead in raising the bar in the blogosphere?  What do you think about the blogger code of conduct? Does it impose on free speech? Drop me a note: I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time.

Keep Writing,
Maria

P.S. Thanks for all of the great quotes. Feel free to add more whenever you like–I’m wild about inspirational quotes.

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12 thoughts on “Blogs and Free Speech

  1. Anthony Buccino

    It’s gotten to the point where I have so many blogs going, I can’t remember which one to update next. However, they each have their own audience an each serves its own purpose. For instance, I have a blog about the reconstuction of a park pier in Jersey City. Who else would be interested in this? Whoever is can find it and I’m not paying for a domain for it. http://vangrundy.blogspot.com/

    I have a separate blog for on the loose in Jersey City, http://uncletonoosejc.blogspot.com/, and one for Old Belleville, http://oldbelleville.blogspot.com/, and on and on.

    I try to keep them updated monthly or more so, but it’s only when I have something to add. http://uncletonoose.blogspot.com/

    Regards,
    – Anthony

  2. Chris

    While I’m not a blogger, I would like to comment about the bloggers code of ethics.

    In “A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs” Brad Stone writes, “a subtext of both sets of rules is that bloggers are responsible for everything that appears on their own pages, including comments left by visitors. . . . bloggers should also have the right to delete such comments if they find them profane or abusive. . . . many Internet veterans believe blogs are part of a larger sphere, and that deleting a visitor’s comments amount to an assault on their right to free speech.”

    There are limits to what we can say or do. Being abusive or profane is NOT freedom of speech. If we won’t stand for someone being profane or abusive IN PERSON why should we tolerate this behavior in a blog? And might not being profane or abusive in a blog be skirting the edge of libel or slander not to mention "harassment by communication" which is a chargeable offense in some states.

    I’ve read the blogger’s code of ethics and it is a tenet of common sense and common courtesy. It does not infringe upon the rights of bloggers. Bloggers should have some control over what they will and will not tolerate on their blogs.

  3. J J Gowland

    Blogging is an opportunity for writers to hone and sharpen their creative edge.
    Each hosting blogger absolutely should have the right to allow or not allow or delete comments.
    I used to visit one blog frequently, because of one persistently riled comment writer I have stopped reading the blog.

  4. Lisa

    Maria,

    I do agree that professional writers who wade into the murky waters of blogging will eventually help drain the swamp and restore civility, professionalism and intelligent dialogue to the world of blogging.

    My editor did not ask me to blog in conjunction with my diet column, but I knew from a marketing standpoint that having an online location for readers to visit would help increase readership and loyalty to the column. My editor confirms that this has been the case.

    My gripe is with those in the publishing world (newspaper and magazine editors especially) who are willing to exploit some writers who are obviously do not have the writing talent, marketing savvy or tenacity needed to make it as a professional writer. These editors are willing to offers substandard writers a blog of their very own knowing full well they’ll never offer these same writers the time of day within those sacred inches of published real estate.

    If professional writers are to help raise the bar of blogging, then it is also imperative that professional editors hold their blogging standards just as high as their publishing standards.

  5. Irene

    I think it’s a great idea. I just started my own blog. The blog world is all new to me, but so far it has been easier than I expected. Check it out if you like: Strugglingtoloseweight.blogspot.com, where I’ve combinded my weight loss struggle with my passion for writing.

    I’m also a freelance proofreader if anyone is interested in having their work proofread.

  6. Morgan Barnhart

    I wouldn’t have met all of my wonderful writing friends, if it wasn’t for my blog. I would have a venue to get critiqued by those same writing friends, without a blog. I wouldn’t be able to express myself out in the world, without a blog.

    One day I would really like to start a blog and place some short stories on it, maybe excerpts to see if people will read it. People are always dying for good stories.

    I know of one romance author that used her blog to write erotica and developed a huge fan base before she started publishing.

    Blogging really isn’t for everyone though. As you mentioned, there are plenty of people out there who really shouldn’t have blogs, but blogs are a way to express ourselves and in that sense, everyone should have a blog. It’s a difficult subject when talking about blogs because even though it can help the career of many, it can also break it.

    I’ve known someone personally who said something on her blog, she didn’t mention any names, but that person just happened to read it (mind you, that person never read blogs) and that person happened to work in the same office as my friend. Well, it was a big scandal and my friend almost got fired. But luckily didn’t. I think it all comes down to control when blogging. Controlling what you say, controlling comments and controlling how often you blog. It all has an effect.

  7. Cindy a.k.a Gooblink

    More encouragement to get off my lazy tush and update my blog. 🙂

    Regarding a blog code of conduct:

    As the article points out, it would be nigh unto impossible to regulate or manage such a code of conduct for bloggers. However, there are already many blogging circles on the web – sort of like clearinghouses for bloggers sharing some sort of commonality. I can see this developing into a clearing house of sorts – linking to member bloggers who agree to abide by the code.

    Though I don’t enable comments on my site, I will admit that reading comments on others’ blogs is enjoyable to me and allowing people to share their views does serve to round-out the article.

    As a blogger, I absolutely defend my right to delete readers’ comments for any reason I choose. Now, mine is a personal website and I own the URL and even host it myself. If I were blogging under the auspices of another organization, I’d play by its rules.

  8. Elizabeth

    Blogging has worked well for me. My readership is growing every day. Of course my readers are looking for daily devotions, bible studies, inspirational stories. The most of the time the comments are heart felt and encouraging to me. Yes, there are ocassions I have to delete someone’s comment because they were trying to sell something. But for the most part blogging has been a useful way to expand readership and draw traffic to my site. It’s also an excellent tool for honing your writing skills due to the almost instant feedback you get from your readers.

  9. jessica

    Blogging is a hard topic. If the basic question is ‘Does limitations of blogs limit the writer?’ I’d have to say…Nah, not so much. If it imposes on some particulars such as words (4 letters-types), there is always other sites to be found that do not give such regulations. Heck, there are sites for everyone. If someone wants to curse, every other word, then they can at site B because site A has rules against it.
    Blogging can be a double edged sword as well. Sure there are a million sites, sure they range~ Just as John stated~ from one end to the other. Most of the time, the squeaky wheel get noticed. Those who ‘scream’ the loudest find that it’s the most effective way to get attention. That doesn’t make them right, just convinced. These will probably be the ones who respond to the blogs too. Goes back to the fact that one cannot please everyone, there’s always going to be a critic! (I think you nailed that point exactly!) No matter what is written, there will be someone who doesn’t agree, someone who will get feedback that isn’t wanted. One has to be aware of that when they decide to blog.
    To blog is to invite the world in to whatever topic shared. Some aren’t comfortable with this. That’s understandable, too. Depends on the person. If they are ready to ‘face the fire’, on if they want to defend a stand taken. Personal choice there.
    Do writers need to raise the bar? It would be nice. Sure. However, so many use the net to ‘recruit’ for one reason or another. So many use it as a weapon. I don’t think that the bar can be raised when there’s nothing on either side that holds it up! Too many people. Too many opinions. Too many reasons that people write, even if they are terrible writers. Should we cast ourselves in those roles? I don’t know. I don’t think I would blog fiction writing. Opinions? Sure. Poetry? Maybe. Fiction… Nope. It’s an opens too many doors which invite people in where you might not want them. For those that do, more power to them. I think it is a bad idea on most sites.
    Very interesting topic…

  10. JohnOBX

    I think what people get the most riled about is the lack of civility. I don’t think people care if your opinion is far left, far right or far out. It is a matter of how you present it. Some bloggers think that you have to rant and rave and throw bombs at anything that moves to be heard. Unfortunately, bad behavior does garner attention, so it becomes a contest to see who can say the most outlandish and hurtful things in the most spiteful way.

    Unfortunately Emily Post’s "Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home" was never codified into law, so it can’t be enforced. You are never going to be able to out-yell, out-curse or out-do the profane bloggers. The only way to win is to ignore them through a sort of passive resistance. You see a blog that boils your blood or you get a post in your blog that is uncalled for, ignore it. Perhaps with a polite comment: "I’m sorry, but I don’t respond to that kind of attack/language/whatever." Then walk away. That’s the hardest thing to do, but it’s the only way to win.

    I know part of the discussion has revolved around censorship. I certainly think anybody who owns or maintains a blog or website open to public commentary should be allowed to remove things that are clearly offensive. A well reasoned disagreement should not be considered offensive.

    We had a good discussion about this a while back in the Forums when the poem about killing babies in North Korea was posted. The poem was stark, about a difficult subject and not something everyone wanted to read. But we had a good talk about it, everybody got to have a say and I don’t think anyone came away angry. Stong opinions were espoused, but I don’t think anybody stepped out of line.

    Thanks for bringing this up. Sorry to ramble on for so long, but it is an interesting subject.

    –John

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