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The New York Times on Ethics and Blogging

Adam Cohen of the New York Times opines today about ethics and blogging. It’s a piece that makes a few points but not particularly well, and ultimately raises more questions about Cohen than about blogging.

Cohen repeatedly makes reference to “bloggers,” but he is not referring to bloggers as you and I understand them. Cohen is referring to a handful of political-commentary bloggers: Wonkette (he brings her up twice), Daily Kos, Talking Points, Arianna Huffington, FishbowlDC, and–well, he does bring up Wonkette twice. Cohen also throws in Matt Drudge, who as Tim Worstall points out is not a blogger.

Cohen then bloviates through a stream of blogging generalizations, prefaced with statements such as “Bloggers often,” “as bloggers well know,” or “most bloggers.” At one point he refers to “the world of bloggers” (where “few rules apply”), which sounds like such an exciting, edgy place to visit I eagerly await Expedia’s announcement of a trip package to Blogville.

I realize Cohen’s column is just commentary on the opinion page of the national newspaper of record, but where are the facts grounding this piece? “It is hard to know who many bloggers are,” states Cohen, a comment I read in his article which at last count has already been linked to dozens of blogs written by people with painfully thorough “about pages” and blog names as eponymously transparent as Grant’s Tomb. Let me ask you, Adam: who do you think writes

Cohen also states “bloggers rarely disclose whether they are receiving money from the people or causes they are writing about.” After reading this I checked my online bank statement, but alas, no big checks had laundered their way in. If Cohen is going to aver that most bloggers are on the take, sucking up money under the table like Armstrong Williams, he needs to ground us in a few more details. Unlike Cohen, I’m not paid by anyone to write what you’re reading right now, and if I were, I’d let you know. (Paypal welcome here.)

Cohen makes reference to the standards discussed on, but to call these standards a “fledgling attempt,” and then overlook Rebecca Blood’s equally important work in the area of blogging and ethics, makes it obvious his own research was desultory.

Finally, I realize that anyone who’s anyone should know who Adam Cohen is, but an article touting transparency (which I agree is a good thing) could at least include a link to his online bio, which makes it abundantly clear why he can’t see beyond the hypoxic horizons of his quaintly clubby little world.

Don’t be mislead by Cohen’s poor arguments. As an issue for librarians (and non-biblish people) to consider, blogging and ethics deserves–and has received–some very thoughtful discussion. Beyond and Rebecca Blood’s work, any number of us in the biblioblogosphere have written about blogging and ethics. My recent article in Library Journal covers a lot of ground and links to other people writing on this subject.

But hey–Frank Rich rocked today, writing about Laura Bush, so I forgive you, NYT.

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