Brummett vs. Us: Peace in Our Time?

Brummett: Peacemaker?
Brummett: Peacemaker?

In a fascinating piece today—”fascinating” because it is about me—Arkansas News Bureau columnist John Brummett probes the perennial question of ethics in blogging. Specifically, how bloggers like me and Blake Rutherford of Blake’s Think Tank, both of whom have other jobs and business arrangements, manage to distinguish our blogging roles from our paid work.

And it’s a measured and fair-minded column. I’ll confess that I’m surprised.

Since I spoke to Brummett last week on this matter, I had assumed that he was going to write something highly critical, and I’ve been constructing counter-arguments in my head in response. I was even going to do a hilarious Photoshop of Brummett’s head on a finger-wagging schoolmarm’s body, to portray him as an “old-fashioned media scold.” (There is, after all, precedent for my having expected this.)

But then he went and wrote this piece. Read the whole thing, but I’ll jump ahead here to Brummett’s conclusion. After considering the potential ethical pitfalls of part-time blogging, and examining my and Rutherford’s attempts at maintaining some semblance of integrity, Brummett writes:

Actually, the answer to my concern is simple and clear: These time-honored [ethical] principles won’t survive unless self-imposed and rewarded by discerning readers, which, actually, is how they’ve always existed in a free-expression country.

So blog on, baby.

The only thing I might add to the mix right now, essentially amplifying Brummett’s point, is this: In a media-rich environment in which people have more information options than at any other time in history, it’s more incumbent on the media consumer to make judgments about who and what publications they want to invest their trust in.

There’s a “marketplace of ideas” dynamic at work here—if readers decide, for whatever reason, that they can’t trust, can’t use or simply don’t like the content that they get from me, Blake Rutherford or any other self-publisher, then it’s the easiest thing in the world for them to opt out and go elsewhere.

That’s a significant incentive for any blogger to be as aboveboard as possible, because once you’ve lost that relationship of trust with your readers, it ain’t coming back.  And as Brummett suggests here, the same incentive applies to bigger media players these days, as well.

Could it be that all these Arkansas new media whiz kids may just find a way to coexist peacefully with the John Brummetts of the world after all? Is there a rapprochement at hand? Perhaps.

But I might still do that “Brummett as scolding schoolmarm” Photoshop, just to have it on hand, because that would be some pretty funny stuff.

Update: More from Max Brantley at The Arkansas Times, who seconds the “marketplace” model, more or less: “Performance over time eventually provides a somewhat useful base for evaluation of blogs, I think. Eventually.”

Blake “Meaty” Rutherford weighs in here. And here comes Tolbert!

Update II: Mark Moore at the Arkansas Watch blog weighs in with a dissent to the era of good feelings. No holiday truce for this warrior.

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7 thoughts on “Brummett vs. Us: Peace in Our Time?

  • December 20, 2008 at 11:05 am
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    Excellent analysis. Not living in Arkansas anymore I use to use the “Times” blog for my political news. The only real problem I have with Max or the Times is the hate that his bloggers spew and his failure to regulate it. Now with that being said I gave my fair share of hateful crap to Andrew Pritt when I used to frequent Max’s Blog. But when Kelsey Gadberry was killed in an automobile accident the blog readers said “who cares?” and called her a “coked up cheerleader” . When Natalee Holloway disappeared the things his bloggers said about her were just terrible. I had an old boxing coach whose son was convicted of murder and some guy said (Dogtown genius or something like that) he hope he became a victim of prison rape. The same was said when Jerry Falwell died. Max has a penalty box I wish he would have used it more.

    It’s your blog Max you can do whatever you want, but let’s just have a little tolerance and compassion to others. Isn’t that a tenant of liberalism?

    Reply
  • December 20, 2008 at 11:41 am
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    Good for Johnny B.
    I’d understand his past concerns more if the established media had an inclination to be unbiased. I know what he means when he talks about the supposed standards the media carry around as credentials to establish that they are, in fact, professional. But those standards are, as Brummett hinted at, about as stringent as the standards to hold elected office. And only the most serious of ethical breeches results in any kind of revocation of said credentials.
    Trust is a matter of personal choice. Bryce and I have problems with the Times blog. I doubt either of us have a problem with Max Brantley himself. We understand that he has a certain philosophical bent that compels his postings. I think his posts are given to hyperbole and that in itself is not a problem for me because the news he reports is usually dead on. The problem is what that hyperbole does to his readership, i.e., it drives them into a frenzy. Example; when Senator Gwatney was killed. The Times denizens blamed Republicans and said the troubled fellow that shot Gwatney was driven by politics.
    Blogs have the same power to influence the public as the mainstream media, albeit on a smaller level. The issue isn’t the free speech that allows both blogs and the media to function as they do. The problem is the emotional reaction that the reader has and how they take the information they have received, how they process it and how they then act. There is responsibility on bloggers and press members to act, but ultimately, the real responsibility lies with the reader. They can either be sheep and take everything on face value or they can try to enlighten themselves and learn what the truth is by looking at all sources available.
    It is sort of like the difference between a reporter and a historian. The press reports the news. A historian takes all information, including the zeitgeist of the times and the prejudices of the various sources and paints a complete picture. A reporter should always be a reporter. A reader should be like a historian and figure all the known variables into the equation and then draw a conclusion. If they do, they can navigate the waters of the modern information deluge successfully.

    Reply
  • December 20, 2008 at 12:03 pm
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    Emperor Brumpatine “Feel the power of the dark side of the force.”

    Luke, er David, “Wow, this getting good press from the still-powerful traditional media DOES feel pretty good”.

    Emperor Brumpatine, “Your co-option is almost complete.”

    Reply
  • December 20, 2008 at 12:22 pm
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    Mark,
    Ah, perhaps I’m just suffused with the generosity of holiday season warmth and good cheer. Maybe I’m just not determined enough to seek out offense where none was intended…

    But this “co-option” you speak of — would that mean I could somehow get paid for writing stupid jokes, trafficking in absurd rumors and doing terrible Photoshop compositions? Because that would be awesome. Call me, Still-Powerful Traditional Media!
    D.

    Reply
  • December 20, 2008 at 11:04 pm
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    In your instruction be diligent Obi-Wan Moore. Young Kinkade revels in the lure of The Dark Side. Your task difficult, it is.

    Reply
  • December 22, 2008 at 9:28 pm
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    I’m fascinated that some of the first conversations in the so-called new media are how you have to limit other people’s voices when you don’t like what they have to say:

    “The only real problem I have with Max or the Times is the hate that his bloggers spew and his failure to regulate it.”

    Or the conversation about how the readers will react to the news, which is the slippery slope toward censorship and/partisan-type reporting, which are the things you folks love to accuse the traditional press of doing:

    “The problem is what that hyperbole does to his readership, i.e., it drives them into a frenzy. Example; when Senator Gwatney was killed. The Times denizens blamed Republicans and said the troubled fellow that shot Gwatney was driven by politics.
    Blogs have the same power to influence the public as the mainstream media, albeit on a smaller level. The issue isn’t the free speech that allows both blogs and the media to function as they do. The problem is the emotional reaction that the reader has and how they take the information they have received, how they process it and how they then act. There is responsibility on bloggers and press members to act, but ultimately, the real responsibility lies with the reader. They can either be sheep and take everything on face value or they can try to enlighten themselves and learn what the truth is by looking at all sources available.”

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?
    Looks like we’re getting ready to be fooled again.

    Reply
  • December 23, 2008 at 5:05 am
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    Thanks, Spelunky. We actually had some discussion on this issue a few weeks back, and Brantley even joined in:

    https://www.thearkansasproject.com/politico-reporters-invade-arkansas-blogger-unharmed/

    My own take, short version, is that no blogger is required to provide people a forum to spout off as a “free speech” requirement. If someone comes on this blog’s comment section and is a pain in the ass, I reserve the right to knock ’em off. My house, my rules. Don’t like it? Get your own house — Start your own blog.

    I’ve done it rarely, but I reserve the right. That’s not censorship — that’s how I choose to run this publication, which I built and which I fund.

    At the same time, I disagree with Bryce about Max Brantley’s need to “regulate” his commenters. It’s his house, his blog, his rules — if Bryce doesn’t like the comments, that’s easily resolved by not clicking through to read them. Or starting his own blog. Or hanging out with the cool kids at the Arkansas Project.

    And Fourche River Rex? Well, everyone knows he just says the craziest things when he doesn’t get his methadone.
    D.

    Reply

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