So here’s a question: how accountable to fact must you be when posting information for public consumption?
When I write here, I consider myself to be exploring an issue, not sounding the final word on the subject. I have no control over your interpretation of the same. Some may view my voice as authoritative, and as misguided as it may be I can’t stop that. I make mistakes with my facts, mostly due to lack of knowledge or proper research. I know what I know and I write about it. Sometimes I check my facts, other times what I know or think is wrong though I assume otherwise. That’s what gets published.
If I were adhering to an established journalistic standard, this would be abhorrent. But I’m not.
Consider my recent two entries about colour-blindness for example. The first was obviously (to me anyway) poorly researched and hinged around conversations and memory as opposed to solid fact-finding. The second was more in depth and valid, and even confidently presented researched material as fact.
But then, what is fact-finding? What is inherently more legitimate about deadening the muscles in your hind end while flipping through dead trees, than conversing with the same sort of person who would have written the text in the first place?
Especially when it comes to web-related topics, what constitutes valid research? Everyone knows you can’t trust the information on the web. But when the majority of what you do takes place there, and isn’t transported to other mediums, then you clearly have to start taking the information available more seriously. Or at least finetune your BS detector.
Of course the danger with that is the self-supporting network it creates. B publishes thought Q, C quotes B, D takes C’s quote as fact, and F, G, and H all develop theses around Q, citing B, C, and D as proof.
If B didn’t do his homework, that’s a large chain of untruth to unravel when Q pans out as a falsehood. But who’s on the hook? B was musing publicly. He never expected his thoughts to be taken as fact, let alone be quoted as authoritative.
So the question is who determines the nature of a weblog? If the author intends on publishing nothing more than exploratory musings, is the readership responsible for treating the subject matter as temporal and non-factual? If the readers notice reliably consistent factual information from the author despite what he or she claims, can they reasonably expect future publishing by the author to maintain the trend?
Of course the answer is obvious. It depends on the source. Just as a report by CNN is considered more authoritative the Weekly World News, an entry by an individual who has established credibility and legitmacy can be relied on further than one who has not. Then again, that’s not to say that CNN never makes mistakes or panders to advertisers either.
The final onus must be exclusively on the reader. Do you believe everything you read? Do you believe everything you see on TV? Neither should you believe everything on the web. The only truth is your own experience, and everything else is just second hand.
It’s the way it always has been, and a new medium doesn’t change that.