Thanks for Proving My Point, Gawker!

Expect A Visit From The Internet Police

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A few weeks back I announced plans to form a nonprofit journalistic service organization called the Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation. You may have read about it in David Carr's "Media Equation" column in The New York Times, or maybe you read some of the follow-up coverage on JimRomenesko.com, paidContent, Gawker, The Awl, Poynter -- or in more unexpected places like the the DeBord Report blog hosted by 89.3 KPCC (Southern California Public Radio) or O Estado de S. Paulo, a Brazilian newspaper, or Daily News & Analysis, a newspaper based in Mumbai. Yeah, the news traveled far and wide.

The Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation in action
The Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation in action Credit: Getty Images

For the most part, I sat back and listened (or read), though I did do interviews when asked, which was the case with paidContent and the Brazilian and Indian papers.

Some people had questions, but most people simply had strong reactions. They had a lot to say about the very idea of the Council, and they engaged in plenty of speculation about its potential value or lack thereof.

Now, having taken it all in, I'm rejoining the fray. To shine further light on the Council, I've agreed to another interview ... conducted by me.

Q. So this is the Blog Police, right?
A. Oh, yeah, absolutely. The 30-plus members of CEBA (so far; we'll announce a full list next month) -- including Cyndi Stivers, editor-in-chief of the Columbia Journalism Review; Sheryl Huggins Salomon, managing editor of The Root; Evan Hansen, editor-in-chief of Wired.com; Dan Okrent, former New York Times public editor -- will be equipped with pepper-spray canisters and will be authorized to spritz disobedient bloggers in the face, point-blank, U.C. Davis-style. Especially Gawker's Hamilton Nolan.

I kid, HamNo! I kid because I love! Seriously, I couldn't have asked for a more deliciously bitchy response than your March 12 post titled ""We Don't Need No Stinking Seal of Approval from the Blog Police"" (which pretty much totally missed the point but was a classically entertaining HamNo read).

"Look," Nolan wrote, "what Dumenco is trying to do is simply to codify "how to blog without being a huge prick' guidelines that all decent online writers already know." He specified some—"give credit to sources of information, link back, don't blockquote to a ridiculous degree" -- and then concluded that "everyone who cares about not being a prick already does these things, or tries to do them, and, if notified of not doing them, should correct them" and that for "writers who don't care about this issue, such a group [CEBA] will have no influence. Therefore such a group is worthless."

Q. Well, what do you say to that , constable?
A. I'm just going to cite a comment appended to Nolan's post by New York Observer Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Spiers, who is part of the Council. (To Nolan's credit, he "promoted" her comment, which is Gawkerspeak for an upvote.) Spiers gave me her OK to quote this in full:

"I think you misread the intent. The purpose of the group isn't credentialing or policing; it's to establish some common policies that interested parties (and obviously, that won't be everyone) can implement to create consistency in how stories are credited. It's a style guide of sorts, not some sort of top-down set of rules that everyone must follow on penalty of getting kicked off the Internet. And while some individual bloggers may choose to use the guidelines as well, I don't think anyone involved thinks everyone with a cat photo Tumblr is going to start memorizing citation rules. It's probably more useful for institutions. And if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But I think you're wrong about these things already being well-established among people who blog professionally. In my experience, they're not at all, and the disparities between citation methods at the publications involved are demonstrative of that ."

Q. Wow, that was great.
A. Yeah, wasn't it? I also want to add that , Gawker being Gawker (i.e., deeply schizophrenic and wildly, delightfully inconsistent), it published another post the next day titled ""I Am the New Sheriff of the Internet and I Say the Daily Mail Can Go Fuck Itself"." Written by one Danny Gold, it began: "Everyone is buzzing today about the new ethics for internet reporting dictated by David Carr, Simon Dumenco, Adam Moss and a few other notables, and by everyone I mean a bunch of nerds who write things on the internet, myself included." (Gold went on to excoriate the Daily Mail because "they steal stories so blatantly" and "they're a bunch of assholes about it.")

Um. A coupla things about that :

First, Gawker failed to link to David Carr's column; it didn't even offer an inconspicuous in-text hotlink or a perfunctory end-of -post link. Instead, it linked the words "Everyone is buzzing today" to its own Hamilton Nolan post from the day before. (You wouldn't want to make it easy for someone to read the original source material, right? Better to self-link and keep people from leaving your site.)

Second, David Carr is not involved in any way, shape or form with the Council! You absolutely could not read Carr's column and conclude that he was part of the Council; he was simply reporting on the fact that I was forming an organization. (Gold was correct in name-checking Adam Moss, New York magazine's editor-in-chief, who is , in fact, involved -- but, again, he's just one of more than 30 Council members so far.) Given that Gold is clearly not illiterate, I have to conclude that he did not even bother to really read the damn David Carr column he was riffing on secondhand; or if he did, he skimmed it in about 10 seconds, which is a really ace way to aggregate, sport! (Maybe go see if Nick Denton is handing out gold stars or if Hamilton Nolan will give you a blowing-up fist bump.)

Don't get me wrong, Gawker does plenty of very sharp, valuable media analysis (e.g., see Max Read's ""Your Guide to the Idiotic Racist Backlash Against Trayvon Martin"" from last week). But really, the "New Sheriff of the Internet" post -- geez Louisiana! I've written about that sort of facts-be-damned, blogorrheic, webby game of telephone before, and it makes me sad when a promising young whippersnapper like Davy Golb (I think that was his name; sorry, no time to go back and check!) gets caught up in such lazy, disinformational drive-by lameness.

Gawker later inserted a parenthetical note into Gold's post -- "(correction: Carr is not involved in the plan, he merely wrote about it)" -- but didn't seem interested in fixing any of his patently incorrect original wording.

Q. So you're picking on Gawker now?
A. Hey, Gawker started it! (Mom! Gawker is being mean to me again! Waaaaah!)

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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