Friday, December 21, 2007
Blogs move beyond original concept, some carry liability for authors
Of late, I’ve discussed blogging with many different writers. Looking to the not so distant past, I remember when people first began to dash off Weblog confessionals. Most, but not all, early blogs tended to repeat the word “I” ad nauseam, were inclined to offer lots of personal information we don’t really want or need (who cares if you smoke two cigarettes after sex?), and came wrapped in writing that demonstrated less not more when it came to skill. Then mainstream media began to take note. Blogs were drawing readers and more importantly, some were being sold for large sums of money. Now just about every major media outlet has a blog section, and many newspapers offer readers free blogs.
With the blog going mainstream, I think a lot about content and liability. I’ve often mentioned the Orlando mom who was sued for criticizing her child’s school, and I heard a snippet yesterday on the radio that made me curious. There’s at least one major lawsuit in a New York court right now involving defamation. I didn’t catch the whole commentary because the host of the show (I don’t even know his name) cut to a commercial just as I was arriving at my destination.
I’ve come to the conclusion that blogs will ultimately end up being held to the standard established publications apply to professionally written content. The format is already changing—blogs hosted by Google and other services have gradually increased opportunities for design.
What we accepted in the early Weblog days is changing, with mainstream media increasingly featuring blog owners on talk-news shows and even in print features. I hold to my prediction lawsuits will increase. Once someone is defamed in a story on the Web, there’s a wildfire effect, with bloggers seizing the story with a simple goal of increasing traffic. Problem is many don’t do their homework, relying on a single source for information rather than doing the dull tedious research that any story deserves. Web stories hang around, unlike print stories that go into the recycle bin after a day or two.
I did a Web Savvy column at The Writer, interviewing an attorney about liability and copyright issues. Part I is up and Part II will publish after the first of the year.
I’d urge anyone who writes a personal blog to tread carefully with accusatory stories. Quote carefully and correctly, if for no other reason than fairness, and to avoid spending time and money with an attorney.