Blogs have been part of the media ecosystem for more than a decade now, but news outlets are still wrestling with how to best incorporate them into their operations. Dave Winer, one of the medium’s pioneers, once defined a blog as, “the unedited voice of a person.” Further to that, he argued:
“If it was one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think — then it was a blog, no matter what form it took. If it was the result of group-think, with lots of ass-covering and offense avoiding, then it’s not. Things like spelling and grammatic errors were okay, in fact they helped convince one that it was unedited.”
It’s an honorable notion of what a blog should be, which suits independent bloggers just fine. News outlets, however, have unique responsibilities to their readers and to the public and as such their standards must differ.
Among other things, people expect a higher level of accuracy, integrity, transparency and quality from media organizations, and that expectation applies as much to blog content as it does to more traditional content such as news and features–especially because many readers do not differentiate between the two types of content.
At Scientific American, certain staff-written and house-run blogs, such as Observations, Guest Blog, MIND Guest Blog, Expeditions and Voices, receive editing. Meanwhile, bloggers in our network adhere to Winer’s unedited-voices paradigm and we think that’s the way it should stay. The network is a forum for a wide range of independent, expert voices to share news and opinions. We encourage bloggers to seek advice and editing when needed and the blogs editor reviews all posts carefully as soon as possible after they are published. But we trust those we choose to write for us to meet editorial standards and expectations.
There are risks to the unedited approach, to be sure, but we believe those diverse perspectives are worth it. At the same time, we’ve come to realize that to make the unedited model work, there needs to be a higher degree of coordination and organization within the network. So over the coming months we will be implementing a number of changes. First, we are publishing a new set of Blog Network Guidelines so that everyone, bloggers and readers alike, is fully aware of our basic operational ground rules and protocols.
To make the most of these new guidelines, we are also reshaping the network to work more closely with our blogggers, create an improved balance of topic areas and bring in some new voices. We are immensely proud of the bloggers that have shared their time and expertise in the Scientific American network and are incredibly grateful to our loyal readers. As always, we look forward to your feedback.