Friday, August 15, 2008

Keeping Cazadora honest - it takes a village

Perusing my e-mail over coffee this morning, I found something I had never seen since starting this blog: a challenge.

"I have a (small) bone to pick with you on this post ("Kids and hunting - where to draw the line")," one of my readers wrote.

"Invariably, when you mention a statistic, you cite the source. Where is your source for the statement of 'Lord, you always hear about turkey hunters shooting at movement and sound that turns out to be another turkey hunter doing some really good calling.' "

I nearly fell into my coffee.

You see, during my 19 years in the newspaper business as a reporter and editor at papers small and large, it was routine for readers and sources to call or email when they thought I or my reporters hadn't met our normal standards of accuracy.

But as a blogger? I've never been challenged like that - until today.

I was delighted. Why?

In a word, legitimacy.

Professional journalism is filled with myriad garden-variety errors every day, but part of what makes it work, on the whole, is that there are a number of forces arrayed to keep journalists honest.

Part of the unease professional news organizations have with the concept of blogging as news is that there are no broadly accepted ethical standards for blogging, as there are for news organizations. Bloggers can say whatever we want, be as opinionated as we want, and if we wanted to make stuff up, who would hold us accountable?

Matt took up this general issue today in the first of a series of posts on the Outdoor Bloggers Summit, "Writing Workshop Series: Are Bloggers Journalists?"

Having someone challenge me today meant that there are blog readers - just as there are newspaper readers - who will hold us to high standards. And with blogs filling in a vacuum left by the shrinking forces of professional journalists, I think that's really important.

In this case, the reader affirmed a doubt I'd had as I wrote my post about kids hunting. Should I back up this statement on turkey hunting accidents, or should I just leave it at this generalization? I took the easy route, relying on my memory of various news stories.

Professional journalists go through the same thought process, and when a reader or source calls us on it later, we learn a lesson: Yes, take the extra step to do it right.

As it turned out, what I'd written about turkey hunting accidents was just fine. As I gulped down my coffee, I did a search and quickly found more than a dozen stories from the past few years about turkey hunting accidents.

In the old days, that feeling of vindication would've been the highlight of my day. Today, though, it's the fact that blog readers have high standards and aren't afraid to call us on it if we get something wrong.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008


NorCal Cazadora said...

P.S. actually did create a "Bloggers' Code of Ethics," which you can read here. It was based on the broadly accepted Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which you can read here.

This may be a better discussion for the Outdoor Blogger's Summit, where the inner workings of blogging is what it's all about. But, I thought it was worth mentioning here too.

Blessed said...

I'm interested to read the bloggers code of ethics - thanks for the link.

Also... I haven't forgotten about your boot question and I have answers... hopefully you'll get them later today :)

Live to Hunt.... said...

Holly, I think it is interesting that someone called you out about a generalized comment on your last post. As I said in my comment on OBS, there is a tremendous amount of norming that is still taking shape in the blogosphere and to redact boggers into a mold of traditional journalism just ain't gonna work!

SimplyOutdoors said...

This is interesting. I am kind or torn a little bit though. While I do want us bloggers to be taken seriously, and to be a good information outlet for readers, I'm not sure I want to be held to similar standards as a professional journalist.

I do think it is great though that they are reading your blog, and others, and taking them seriously.

Anonymous said...

We've been having a discussion about this over on the Small Business Forum. The question we've been discussing is when anyone can set themselves up as an expert and publish whatever they like on the Internet, how do you know who truly is an expert and who you can trust.

I think holding bloggers to high standards is a good thing. There are a lot of people who take what they see on the 'Net at face value. I'd like to see more people questioning things. I think that will ultimately lead to better content.

Brandon Darnell said...

I just wanted to say that I love the photo of the Bobby.

Also, I think anytime you/we can back statements up with sources makes the whole post more legitimate. It can give the readers a recourse if they later discuss it with someone rather than "I read it on the Internet."

I'll have to keep that in mind on my own blog, where I think I sometimes tend to the "I was there, and I saw it, therefore you can take my word for it" route.

Native said...

If someone is truly interested in the legitimacy of any of your statements and wants to argue the point, let them do the hours of painstakingly arduous research like "you all" have done.

Then, and only then, will that person have earned the rights to disagree with your articulations, observations and opinions concerning what you have written about.

Thats why I like to read your blogs, you all have done just that, worked very hard to get to the truth and written it as how you see it!

Jesses Hunting And Outdoors said...

Been turkey hunting since 1964 and it the most dangerous hunting I've ever done. Too many folks like to stalk the caller thinking they are a real turkey. You're in full camo so any movement can cause a sneak hunter to shoot at your hide.

Turkey also seem to frustrate many hunters compared to other game and some are reduced to taking risky shots to try and get on the tote board.

Ran into an old turkey hunting buddy from high school at a reunion and he was wearing a pirate patch. Friend of his got turned around in the woods and stalked him and shot him.

It's the one hunt that when I set up the first thing in my mind is, "Where will the sneak hunter approach from?"

Matt said...

Fascinating post. Thanks for the link!