What makes this a Los Angeles topic is that two local “bloggers” (quotes stressed), Arianna Huffington and L.A. Times’ Michael Hiltzik have both been in the news lately for their questionable approach towards blogs.
LA Observed noted yesterday that Michael Hiltzik’s Golden State blog at the LA Times was suspended because “he posted items on the paper’s website, and on other websites, under names other than his own.” The pseudonymous postings gave the impression that readers were agreeing with what he was writing. (the suspension was apparently brought about by a post LA Observed made on the subject one day prior)
Arianna’s controversy from a few weeks ago concerned her “Huffington Post” reprinting quotes given by George Clooney in assorted sources, and reprinting them as a blog entry by George himself. George objected and claimed he has never blogged, while Arianna defended her actions and said, in essence, that a blog is whatever you want it to be.
On a broader note, Apple is now arguing that bloggers shouldn’t be considered legitimate journalists. While their motive is their own bottom line – to keep bloggers who leak Apple secrets from invoking journalistic protections, this doesn’t mean they don’t bring up a valid argument.
Which is where my opinion comes in: Just being a blogger does not constitute being a journalist, no matter how widely read one is or how often one posts. Allowing anyone who has a blog to claim confidentiality protections just because they have a blog would be a boon for criminals, terrorists, or anyone who wants to dish dirt and avoid libel charges by claiming the use of anonymous sources. This isn’t to say bloggers can’t be reputable, or can’t become journalists, but anyone can spend five minutes to set up a blogger account – it takes much more to be a journalist.
As for Arianna – she may be right. Some people write blogs under the guise of dead historical figures, others merely post favorite pictures or mailed in postcards. A blog can be whatever you want it to be. However, to claim any sense of legitimacy and say George Clooney is blogging when, in fact, he never actually sat down to type, or even expressed his intent for his words to part of a blog, is a little disheartening – it makes everyone question which of A list celebrities Arianna claims as bloggers actually write their stuff, or if she’s just pulling lines from press interviews and slapping them together.
But for Michael Hitzik to post under assorted pseudonyms to inflate his own ego is nothing short of deceptive, especially for a blogger who actually is considered a legitimate journalist.
Regardless, the important, and I believe, great thing about blogs, just like the internet as a whole, is that they are a great equalizer. No matter if you’re a blog backed by a huge corporation like the Los Angeles Times or one that is a grassroots effort (like Mack Reed’s LA Voice or blogging.la and Metroblogging), its the content that matters. The readers will decide for themselves what is legitimate and reliable or not.