Because Blogs are in Print, Be Truthful

By admin  

thumbnail.aspxIn the old days, our stomach muscles clenched whenever a teacher asked us to write an essay.  “Not again,” we thought to ourselves. “Has he really asked us to write yet another paper? He just ruined our weekend.”

How quickly times have changed! Now everyone wants to be a Blogger. Thanks to the Internet and word processors, anyone can be “Brenda – Star Reporter”. However, there is one BIG difference: Brenda had to submit articles to her Editor before they could be published. He wasn’t just checking her grammar. His job was to ensure that she could back up her statements with verifiable facts. Bloggers must be their own Editors. With a Blog comes great responsibility.

This may come as a shock to some of you out there in the “Blogosphere.”

Billy, a typical Blogger, might reply with righteous indignation, “What? Are you implying that I cannot write anything I want in my own Blog? Haven’t you heard that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees Freedom of Speech? I’m an American. I can say or print whatever I choose!”

Well, not quite. A famous example is the 1919 U.S. Supreme Court case Schenck vs. United States. In his opinion, Justice Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr. wrote that freedom of speech does not give citizens the right to falsely shout “Fire” in a crowded theater.* It seems obvious in that situation, but most of us also would agree that citizens do have the right to voice their opinions. I respectfully suggest that Bloggers should use “informed opinions” as a guideline when writing their Blogs.

Mainstream newspapers and magazines employ “fact checkers” to verify statements made by reporters in their articles. This may be due in part a desire to avoid lawsuits, but also because of an obligation to tell the truth. Billy the Blogger probably doesn’t need to worry about being sued for expressing his opinions, but he still has a responsibility to ensure his information is accurate before blithely repeating statements based on faulty logic or rumor. Readers and Bloggers alike should be skeptical of outrageously extreme statements. They can check their authenticity easily at www.snopes.com, a free service, which does a pretty good job of debunking urban legends.

If most Bloggers are expressing their opinions, why raise a fuss about accuracy? The reason is this:

Statements become believable simply by being in print.

The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) has known this fact for decades. That’s why SEC regulations insist that a prospectus accompany those dreamy brochures created by Mutual Fund and Insurance Company Marketing Departments. Throughout my twenty-five year career as a stockbroker, I noticed the brochures always had the same theme: They’d have pictures of impossibly handsome older couples (never overweight) strolling along the beach, sailing on large yachts, or playing golf in front of expensive homes. The brochures had “mountain charts” showing the value of the couple’s investments increasing dramatically over the past twenty or thirty years. The implication was, “invest now in our mutual funds or annuities, and you too can live comfortably like this couple during your golden years.” There was no mention of possible steep stock market declines, Bernie Madoff, or economic slowdowns. Investors had to read the prospectus to find any mention of risk.

Presumably, Bloggers wish to impart useful information to their fellow citizens. We all can benefit from their wisdom if they make sure that their information is accurate.

* Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/Shouting_fire_in_a_crowded_theater


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