October 18, 2005
Washington Post's Supreme Court Blog
I think the Washington Post's Campaign for the Supreme Court blog (by Fred Barbash) is a great example of mainstream media taking advantage of the flexibility offered by blog technology. My one issue about the Post's blog is whether or not we should hold it to the standards of professional journalism and, if so, will that spill over to personal "citizen journalist" blogs.
I have no doubt that the Post has not lowered its standards for the blog it is publishing, but I do not think we can or even should expect the same from private "cyber-journalists." For example, much of the time, the second or third confirmation for a statement posted in one personal blog comes from other personal blog posts that flesh out details to complete the story. Who would argue that this isn't a valuable contribution?
That being said I would like to add that I disagree with the opinion that the Internet should be absolutely free and unfettered by the constrains of the law. Those arguments, usually conducted by the EFF, rest on the exceptionalism of the Internet. The Internet simply isn't that exceptional anymore. It has become commonplace just like radio, TV, cable, print media, etc. Ham radio is more exceptional than the Internet.
Certain restriction should apply to the Internet. Publisher's liability probably should apply in those instances where the audience is not restricted from viewing content; where the blog owner has allowed comments to be published without pre-screening. Copyright probably should apply to digitization projects such as Google's. Sales tax on consumer purchases clearly will not halt the advance of Internet retailing so why not require some sort of uniform sales tax. And so on and so forth.
The time has come, I think, to chuck this notion of Internet exceptionalism. It has no basis in fact. When an entity like the Washington Post blogs we need to accept the fact that the Wild West days of the Internet are behind us. As the "legitimate" press comes to dominate the blogosphere, blogs like the one published by the Washington Post blog will raise expectations in the blog audience. Blogs are a nanosecond away from being mainstreamed and I don't see that as a bad thing.
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I disagree with this premise. The premise is that mainstream media are regulated. Broadcasts are regulated because they use a limited amount of spectrum. Cable TV is regulated by municipalities because they put wires on telephone poles.
Newspapers, news magazines and blogs are regulated the same way, by private or government causes of action (lawsuits)for defamation or advocating the overthrow of the government or refusing to speek to a grand jury. Anything else is prior restraint which is censorship.
Sales tax: Why should a vendor four states away have to pay sales tax to a local municipality where the buyer sits? Sales tax is the most regressive form of taxation and if it can be justified by anything it is the services which the local taxing authority provides to the vendor. Police protection, parking lots, traffic control, the apprehension of arsonists, looters and shoplifters, response to fire or burgular alarms, pumping out flood water. None of those services benefit the out of state vendor when the tax is collected at the consumer end.
Moreover if you want to put tax on internet sales, you have to put it on eBay sales as well and therefore every other kind of private sale like yard sales, collector sales, etc. Every individual would have to become a sales tax collector if they want to sell an old couch or crib.
Bad idea all around. Keep it free of regulators and full of free speech.
Posted by: terry seale | Oct 18, 2005 8:26:02 AM