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Responsible blogging, and a lack thereof

Responsible blogging, and a lack thereof

When it comes to LGBT issues, and gay journalism let’s face facts:  gay journalism is dead and 99% of the blogs out there that replace real journalists suck.  How’s that for a to-the-point opening statement?

Years ago, mainstream media (for some asinine reason given the acronym MSM.  Uh, that one is already taken, thanks)  under-reported on it, whitewashed it or flat-out ignored it so lo and behold a virtual cornucopia of LGBT “bloggers” were born.  Anybody who had 15 bucks to throw at Go Daddy baptized themselves a gay journalist.  Blogs were born and readerships shifted from actual journalists reporting on gay issues to this new embarrassment of riches.  The sites are free, they’re accessible anywhere and they were “reporting” on us.  Hoorah!  We’re been legitimized and have our own media!

But back to my opening sentence:  the quality sucks.  Add to that we already had a system in place with actual reporters who had talent, access and connections who got the job done.  They lost their support and we’re now stuck with people who play make believe, presenting themselves as legitimate news sources.  They have objectivity oozing from their pores, and they’ve got the chops to get the job done.

Uh, no they don’t.  On either count.

I’m just going to rant for a while on some of the do’s, don’ts and inconsistencies I’m seeing on a daily basis and let you make your own mind up, ok?  Here goes:

Have a code of ethics:  when you operate a website that catches on, you have a responsibility to your readers.  They’re looking to you as a source of information and as such, you need to govern yourself  accordingly.  I’ve been so amazingly lucky in that my site hasn’t even been out there a full year and I’m pulling in thousands of readers from all over the world.  While I’ve had scarce contact with the majority of them I feel a duty to have a few rules on how I’ll operate.

I stumbled on this piece as it’s prominently displayed on From the Left, and you know what?  It’s freaking brilliant and it was one of the first posts I put on my site.  In short it’s a guidebook for how to operate,  as well as become and stay a reliable blogger for your readers.  I agree with every single word in it, and here’s a few things that jump out at me:

Bloggers should be honest and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Ethical bloggers treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect.

Explain each Weblog’s mission and invite dialogue with the public over its content and the bloggers’ conduct.

Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance.

Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.

I try my best to operate by everything on this ethics page and I’ll be the first to admit:  sometimes I cross the line, and other times I have 9 toes over the line.  But when I turn off the computer for the day I haven’t forgotten the line was there and try my best to correct myself when I’m bending the very rules I’m touting.

The current field of bloggers who have gained notoriety seem to make things up as they go.  They’ll call themselves journalists when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.  Having your own website and writing about LGBT issues doesn’t make you any more of a journalist than my giving to the ASPCA makes me a dog.  They’re tangentially connected and nothing more.

The arrogance factor: if you think you’re the voice for gay people everywhere – stop writing.  Immediately.  You’re just not that important and obviously you’ve lost sight of that.  You’ve gone from someone who’s gay that could string a sentence together to someone that’s gained a bit of popularity and are really full of themselves.  Gay blogs are no longer just an alternative news source – they’re big business.  Take a look at Joe My God, Towleroad, Americablog and Pam’s House Blend.  Every one of these sites has given up 1/2 of their website to advertisements because it’s big bucks for them.  A large banner ad can run thousands of dollars for just one month and that puts them directly across the table from the mainstream media in terms of ad bucks.  That being said, every one of these sites has lost their right to use the word “independent” when referring to their writing, or stepping up to the writing plate because regular media isn’t getting the job done.  I don’ t believe a single one of them would continue to write if they couldn’t turn a profit at it.

Now, a disclaimer before I get my clock cleaned: I have ads on my site, and after 11 months of waffling back and forth I finally put them out there last month.  I wanted to find a balance between putting them out on sayencrowolf.net to make a buck and crossing that line where they’re so overwhelming that you have a tough time distinguishing between the content I’ve written and a paid ad spot.

Would I like a few bucks in my pocket?  You bet your sweet bippy I do.  I’ve worked my butt off on this site, and after contributing 1200 articles to it, seeing a few bucks at the end of the month is a personal reward.  I’ll never get rich at this, and after Google takes their chunk out of the revenue I’ll probably be able to pay my cell phone bill with what’s left.  That’s all the money I’ll be hauling in from those four ads.  Anyone who’s that curious can contact me and I’ll happily send them my income statement from my AdSense account.

Yes, the uber-bloggers (those with a huge following who live off the ad bucks) are certainly entitled to make a few bucks for their efforts, but be truthful about your message and motivation.

There’s more to gay news than “everybody’s out to get us”: I find the gay news cycle infinitely depressing because those at the table see fit to write about today’s latest gay transgression and nothing more.  Politics is screwing us, the right is screwing us and gay life is nothing more than trying to get thru the day by getting out from the boot on our necks.

Really?  Is that all you can see?

That’s a horribly dim view of the world, and probably the biggest reason I started my own site.  Gay society in the US has room for improvement, but you know what?  It sure as hell could be worse.  There are scores of gay journalists in other countries who laugh at the US, calling us spoiled and they have every right to do so.  When the loudest, and most arrogant voices at the table present themselves as a gay “news source”, bemoan the current state of everything with a presumed sense of entitlement then you’d better buckle up.  There are voices around the world who are going to read that, call American gays spoiled, and politely tell you to shut the fuck up.  At the end of the day I have no more sense of entitlement than any one of my straight friends.

A FAR better use of my webspace is sharing my own sense of empowerment in the hopes that others can benefit from the experiences I’ve had.  Yes, without a doubt in all aspects of my life I am not treated equally compared to my straight peers.  Does that mean my life is awful?  Hardly.  I have a son, a man that loves me, and every material need I have is fulfilled.  I’ve carved my own life out despite the protestations of the uber-bloggers that our country owes us something.

There’s a dangerous arrogance in believing your own press hype, and the good ol’ gays club just doesn’t get it.  I’m a successful gay man, and I’ve been out since I was 13 (33 years ago in case you’re wondering).  I’ve spent the better part of 18 years either covering every major news event, or being in the middle of it.  Listing my resume and accomplishments endlessly throughout my posts and some of the uber-bloggers are prone to do accomplishes one thing:  their own sense of self importance.  And that in turn paints the impression in a reader’s mind that “they must know what they’re doing if they got invited to the White House!”

No, that doesn’t make them credible.  That makes them a tool.

Keeping your enemies close:  Without a doubt, the repeal of DADT was a clusterfuck.  But it’s signed, and it probably will go away.  The gay bloggers spent countless hours writing articles that the president was a failure, he’s an enemy of the gay community, you name it.  We got him elected into office, and he damn well owes it to us.  We want DADT, and we want ENDA, DOMA, we wan to get married, adopt kids and we want it RIGHT NOW!  OR ELSE!  (Is it any wonder that the right wingnuts paint us as screaming banshees?  Look at the ammunition we’ve given them)

After writing these volumes of hate-o-grams, one of the writers got an invitation to the White House for a little informational summit.  Since then, they’ve seen fit to mention no less than 12 times that they got in the front door.  Most of the haters didn’t get in the door because of their credibility, they were a public relations opportunity.  The President didn’t get into office by being stupid; he’s a brilliant strategist.  I wouldn’t play chess with the man – forget it.  I’m also willing to bet he’s one hell of a poker player. He’s not going to show you his hand, and in the meantime he’s already thought past you and four moves ahead.  He knew the value of this little summit in terms of what he needed to do, and he out-thought everyone at the table.  He made good on his SOTU promise to kill DADT, and he reached out to the gay bloggers.

Going back to the buffet table and insisting you want more isn’t smart politics.  We’re not going to get more – not with this Congress.  It’s best to forget the acronyms of ENDA and DOMA for now because we’re not going to see any movement on those for a while – and maybe not even under this president.  When you’re arrogant enough to start thinking you are smarter than the President, then your ego has reached a new plateau.  It’s best at this point that you hang up your netbook and run for office.  Stop talking the walk and start walking it.

The Stepford Gays: I’ve read through a lot of websites and I read as many comments as I can stand, and you know what?  It’s amazingly odd to me that every single reader agrees with the writer.  Every single one of them.  If there’s a single voice out there that calls bullshit, I haven’t found them.

Because they’re not allowed to.  More than one website has made it publicly known that voices of dissention have been branded as trolls and subsequently banned from speaking on their site.  That’s a particularly odious process and one that will no doubt go unchecked as there’s no way to stop it.

I don’t want a bunch of Stepford Gays on my site, drinking the Kool Aid I’ve given them and telling me that everything is wonderful.  If I need to get called out on something I’ve said I expect as much.  It’s going to be a useful tool for me to take a look inside to see if I’m wrong.  If I am, correct it.  If I’m not, then I’ve got the chance to stand up for myself.  Censoring those that disagree with you is hypocritical on it’s face.  If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.  You are in the wrong line of work.

OK, I’ve ranted enough and it’s time to wrap this puppy up.  Gay blogging doesn’t translate into gay journalism – period.  There are too many in power right now; all self-appointed and without a single system of checks and balances.  Too many egos fuel the words that are posted, and until those at the front of the line start to act with a sense of ethics, I don’t see any hope for real gay journalists to obtain any sense of credibility.  The next time there’s a blogger summit like the one that was just in Vegas, there needs to be one question for the entire group, and one question only:

How are we ever going to be taken seriously?

Nothing else needs to be pondered.

 

UPDATE:  More proof to all my points.  The NYT in their infinite wisdom has seen fit to give Dan Savage space for an op-ed on how the president should just throw caution to the wind and recommend in the SOTU the entire gay agenda.  Yet one more gay person who’s apparently never spent a day in elected office steps forward with proof he’s smarter than the president.

Oy…

Savage, an advice columnist with a few books to his name, added 15 more minutes to his clock when the It Gets Better project was born.  As a result, gay bloggers have deigned him the saint-du-jour and as such, he can be found speaking just about everywhere on what’s best for all gays.  You all can sleep easier; Dan’s watching out for us.

No need to worry about me, Dan.  I’m a big boy and can take care of myself.

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2 Comments

  1. Well good golly Miss Molly where have you been hiding ?

    A friend sent me a link to this posting in an email and whether you know it or not you hav joined a select few of us who could have written this posting. Four years ago after being down sized at CBS Broadcasting I bought a computer and started blogging at first as a way to teach myself Computer 101. With a backgrounf (of many things) in radio broadcasting I did some marketing checks and realized there was a market to develop websiites and blogs for LGBTs and so began Artlyn Entertainment.

    Two years ago I was asked by CT Media/Hearst Newspapers to develop a "community blog" for the LGBT community on four of its websites and "Focus On The Rainbow" was born. Now almost a year ago I moved FOTR to OutLoudBlogs at invitation which has proved to be just as successful as at Hearst but with the difference being it is hosted by a pro-lgbt blogging site.

    The difference between me and those who you list above, who I call the Country Club" is, and I don't write this to boast, an Associated Press award winning journalist and producer. And therein lies the difference between myself and so-called "citizen journalists" who wouldn't know a newsroom from a bathroom. While I cut/paste just like many others do including mainstream press website I also offer original opine and long form postings at times. Needless to say I don't have the readership as the "giants" (which to me stands for generally ignorant ants) and that''s fine. What matters is I get quality readers who come back everyday to see the latest issue I have focused on each day.

    What to make me vomit, mention "citizen journalists" and I'll gag for hours.

    Thank you my friend whoever you are and I'm adding your blog to my selective blogroll.

    Lyndon Evans
    Publisher
    Focus On The Rainbow
    http://focusontherainbowopine.outloudblogs.com

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    • The problem with the term "citizen journalist" is that it's a half truth: the person writing is a citizen, constructing a sentence properly doesn't make you a journalist. Sadly, there are legions of people who have made "reading a blog" synonymous with "reading the news" and it doesn't quite wash for me.

      The country club writers (to use your phrase) operate under no code of ethics or objectivity. They have a fleeting acquaintance with the line in the sand, but they'll rub it out with their foot and redraw it in a new position as the need arises. They write a piece overflowing with their opinions and call it “news”, and I’ve also seen them blatantly use their readerships to further their own ends:

      *On Christmas Eve/Christmas Day, Americablog put out a short piece soliciting for money in order to be given as tips to their interns and support staff. If they ran a “thank you” piece saying how much was given or who benefitted from these donations I totally missed it.

      *Prior to that I saw Paypal donations buttons out on more than one site in order to help Pam of PHB get by while she recovered from surgery. From what I’ve read, she has a full time job aside from her site, a partner, and judging from the avalanche of ads on her site it’s probably making a few bucks. The CCW saw absolutely nothing wrong at all with pimping their readerships to help her “get by”

      *PHB has a Paypal donate button. You know; in case you have a few bucks you wanna throw her way.

      Wait: what? These are the voices that are being legitimized by the mainstream media as someone who is ok to put in front of a camera and brand them as someone who can speak for the gay community? Sprinkle a few media appearances, add in a GLAAD media nomination, and top with a left handed reference in a real newspaper like WaPo or others and you’re creating a pod of 800 pound gorillas and shoving them all in a phone booth.

      While Joe Jarvis may have started out with a sense of wanting to talk about gay news, that’s easily taken a back seat to the fact that his website is money making machine. Check out his twitter profile page: he can play humble until the cows come home, but he’s keenly aware that even the slightest accolade translates into more readers, which in turn means he can sell add space for more bucks.
      The CCW aren’t interested in being a source of information for the gay community; they wanna pay their mortgage. Any sense of objectivity or responsibility ride shotgun. Jarvis, John Aravois, Pam Spaulding, Signorele and Dan Savage have made careers out of saying just about whatever comes to mind and people line up for it. Shock value will always prevail over substance and objectivity when it comes to turning a buck. Not one of them would survive in a real newsroom.

      I have a full time career in journalism, and up until recently have been a full time photojournalist (read: earned money at it) for the last 18 years. I branched off into writing via an editor of mine in London who told me it’s time to round out my career a bit.

      I started my site out as a way to write about what I think is important without too many restrictions. I do my best to follow the ethics page I hold so dear, but I follow the same formula you do: I’ll cut/paste and set up things I find elsewhere, but I also have plenty of other articles that are entirely mine like this one. I never set out doing this with the idea of competing with the larger sites I mention above. I’m just going to stay my course, and refuse to sit idly by while the CCW twist and distort the gay news cycle to fit their own needs. I’m very fortunate to have a loyal following around here that grows every day, and I feel a sense of responsibility to them to keep on going.

      I appreciate the kind words and adding me to your blogroll. I’ve returned the favour and added you to my own. I hope you stay in touch,

      ..dm

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