Revisiting the Blogosphere

The confluence of several experiences got me to thinking more deeply about journalism.

The first epiphany occurred after I wrote an opinion piece for the local Oregon daily that generated ire from several bloggers. The piece concerned a lawsuit surrounding cigarette packaging.

I wasn’t prepared for the bloggers’ bile, and friends and family members rose to my defense.

But the comments didn’t bug me as much as the freedom the bloggers have to foment publicly. In this case the responses to my opinion appeared without apparent editing or censoring from the newspaper.

I asked a friend who has been a news editor what gives.

He said that the newspaper likely has an open approach to readers’ responses, allowing unedited comments to unfurl liberally on the paper’s electronic pages.

What that means is pretty much anyone with an opinion can write her views without edification in a public forum.

Problem is that such outlets provide an opportunity for anyone with a view to be heard. Unlike letters-to-the-editor, which (in my day as a journalist) were subjected to a gatekeeper’s control and libel laws, electronic responses are largely free of editing.

And such top-of-the head responses often lack mindful thinking.
In a similar vein, the blogger fined $2.5 million for making unsubstantiated comments about an Oregon attorney lacked any gatekeeping mechanism.

According to the New York Times, the blogger invented lies wholesale. At issue is the fact that she had access to the internet, having honed her talents at launching attacks with great prominence.

The ability to bypass gatekeepers and generate our own publicity means that, as writers, we get to frame our own stories. This bodes well for Indigenous tribes that have taken the gatekeeper reins in hand and use their own mediated channels to tell their own stories. That’s good.

But it also means anyone with an internet bull-horn can spread tales without checks and balances, and that’s bad.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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5 Responses to Revisiting the Blogosphere

  1. As a blogger since 2006, I’ve been uncomfortable with the lack of self-reflection within the practice. It is precisely the ability for people to simply move their angry fingers across the keys that makes many suspect about blogging. We need a presence like Scott Rosenberg, internet pioneer in this area, to encourage a conversation about what would be best practices. And for the others of us to write about it on regular basis on our blogs. Am I dreaming? Thanks for taking the risks; sorry about the bad actors. -naomi


  2. Hi Cynthia,,
    I read your editorial in The Oregonian newspaper on Monday. Well said and I totally agree. There is a site called “Blog with Integrity” ( that you might want to check out. Bloggers (like myself) can sign a pledge to blog with integrity. There aren’t any blog police to check up on you about this but as with most of life, it comes back to what kind of person you are and what you value in yourself. I do blog with integrity but know plenty who do not.


  3. las artes says:

    My name is Carmen Lee, and I am a junior at Yale University working at a women’s microfinance company in Accra, Ghana this summer. I took a particular interest in your blog this summer for obvious reasons, but I was especially interested in your reporting because I have found the New York Times’s coverage of Africa rather disappointing. The stories that it chooses to publish about the continent are almost without exception extremely negative, and the few exceptions that do exist to this rule tend to be human-interest stories that focus on the heartwarming tales of individuals struggling to overcome their society’s gross failings. On the pages of the NYT, no news about Africa is indeed good news, because it means things haven’t gotten worse.


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