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3 August 2012

Do bloggers need a “kitemark“ to gain their readers’ trust?

Standards and boundaries could be helpful.

By Steven Baxter

Would a blogging kitemark give readers more trust in what they’re reading?

That’s just one suggestion that bloggers – and the journalists’ union, the NUJ – have been looking at. It’s a kind of “kitemark” that could sit on blogs and websites to show that the author or authors was bearing a set of principles in mind – fairness, honesty, accuracy and so on – when writing their articles.

It’s a subject that I discussed along with other bloggers in my adopted home city of Bristol at the weekend, including the authors of some European media blogs you may not have heard of. (How many of you knew, for example, that there’s such a thing as Bildblog, tearing the work of Germany’s biggest tabloid to shreds, or that it’s a massively popular site? Or that other media blogging sites, from Observatoires des Medias to Zurpolitik, and Corrigo are looking at the same sort of work?)

Despite there being some problems with a “kitemark” scheme, I can see there being quite a lot of advantages.

We bloggers already have layers of scrutiny. Those of us who write for publications like the New Statesman, for example, have to be mindful that our output falls (or fell) under the remit of the soon-to-be-deceased-and-reborn-as-something-completely-different Press Complaints Commission, even though our words will never make it into the “press”.

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In the comments section, friendly and unfriendly people who are dead set against everything we’ve just written, from the placement of commas to the entire premise of our blogposts, will turn up. Why, after what can sometimes be a mauling, would you really be keen to open ourselves up to a more serious form of complaint?

For amateur bloggers, there is the danger of turning what can be an unhealthy obsession at its most benign into a full-time unpaid job. It’s fine if you’ve got time to spend justifying every cough and spit, but not all of us do.

That said, I think this would be a way of representing an aspiration to ethical writing, a legitimacy for blogging, a set of principles to work towards.

What those principles are is a possible sticking point. Take “fairness” for example. One of the things I have always loved about blog-style writing is the way in which you often abandon all pretence of neutrality, the lofty journalistic conceit that you can somehow detach yourself from the events you are hearing and seeing, and which are affecting you directly.

With the kind of blogwriting I like to read (and occasionally write), you very much put your personality, your character and your prejudices into the story, right up front for everyone to be aware of; I find it more honest than imagining you can be some kind of camera taking a neutral picture of the facts around you. Some blogging is unfair, and should be unfair.

It’s a good idea to try and imagine there are some standards, some boundaries, some decent principles to abide by when taking to the keyboard. We all have different definitions, maybe, of what they are. But perhaps this idea is something we can get behind.