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June 26, 2010 / Richard Smart

Journalism, the Internet and the nature of “public”

This article that appeared on The Washington Post website on June 25, documenting the reason for the closure of JournoList, a Google group between like-minded people. Basically, a journalist called David Weigel has his (very polemic) views from that discussion leaked to media organizations and converted into news articles. After this, he resigned from his job at the Washington Post and JournoList was closed down.

Perhaps what is most interesting about this entire affair is what it tells us about the Internet and privacy. As Ezra Klein notes in his Washington Post piece, the places we are on the Internet seem to have an effect on the extent to which we censor ourselves, with Twitter and Facebook seeming to be places where people talk much more openly, and places such as blogs and news sites been spaces where we are much more careful about what we say.

On June 21, Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times spoke in Tokyo* as part of the P2P University course on digital journalism at Keio University. In her talk, she explained that the New York Times pays attention to what its writers are saying on Twitter, and expects them to follow certain rules. This is certainly a way of the origanization preventing its reporters from heading the way of Weigel, but it does lead to questions about the way Twitter is used, and the extent to which we should be monitoring out behavior online.

*Tabuchi’s part in this lesson starts at 37 minutes.

UPDATE: This piece in the New York Times offers excellent opinion on the Weigel controversy.

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