New Book On Blogging Pushing Ethical Standards For Bloggers

by Jason Falls |

When One Nation Under Blog by David Wallace comes out next month, the national publicity push, catchy marketing gimmicks that pose questions like, “Will bloggers decide our next president?” will probably sell a few copies during election season. With blogging still a relatively new and hot topic to the mainstream and political blogs constantly making the news because of breaking scandal stories and scoops on traditional media, people will probably buy this book.

Its framework is a call to action for bloggers to adhere to a code of ethics – 15 items Wallace suggests in the subtext of each chapter heading. They are solid proposals and serve as a nice framework for the discussion of a formalized standard for bloggers.

The book is a good, easy read and does contain a handful of nice case study reminders of how blogs have shaped the professional and personal lives of notable people like Trent Lott, Pete Rose, Martha Stewart, Heather Armstrong of Dooced fame and more.

I originally wrote a negative-leaning review of the book, some of which is below. The reason I changed a bit of my perspective is because I got a chance to talk to Wallace about it. Being cursed with the inability to edit or censor myself, I essentially told him I was concerned about the effect of his book on the mainstream – the non-bloggers – because their takeaway would be that all bloggers are rumor-mongers, lack ethics and are just out to get people.

I think the blogging community will refuse to embrace it because Wallace is not a blogger himself, but a politician scorned by them. He spends 1/3 of the book talking about how badly he was treated by bloggers as mayor of Sugar Land, Texas, 1/3 proposing that if blogs existed years ago our greatest heroes would be considered little more than scum and the other 1/3 providing case studies and the call to action.

So, aside from the facts that with no governmental jurisdiction on the Web and every crowd has a couple of nut cases, enforcement of such a code of ethics is impossible, the suggestion comes from someone with little credibility in the blogosphere.

Those concerns aired, Wallace told me the intent of the book is to start the conversation about ethical standards for bloggers, which is something I would fully embrace, and a conversation I would love for us all to participate in. I’ve said before that social media, including blogging, is still in a period of adoption. Think of the early 1900s when the automobile first came out. Roads weren’t paved, there were no white or yellow lines, stop lights, yield signs and so on. What we’re doing now in social media and blogging is putting down the lines, defining what’s fair, right and good for both individuals and businesses. Why not use Wallace’s book as a starting point for some ethics in blogging?

David Wallace is a former medium-sized town mayor and a former member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council. He also served as founding treasurer and director for the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, working for the former British Prime Minister. He is not a blogger, unless you count the one that goes along with the book that currently redirects to his personal site. He’s a smart guy and one who has some experience as the subject of blogs.

While that would translate to a book about Twittering during conferences written by Sarah Lacy, or, for our mainstream friends, for O.J. Simpson to write a book about civil court, he still raises some valid points and opens up a discussion is high time we have.

Be forewarned: Bloggers will probably have a slight distaste for this book once they’re finished with it. I’m a blogger. I try to write my blog with a healthy dose of journalistic principles, a mindful eye on ethical standards and the goal of being accurate in my representation of facts, fair in my representation of opinions. So when a politician who comes off as not liking or trusting bloggers, seems to lump us all into a pile with unscrupulous political propaganda machines and does so in a published book that he doesn’t seem to have the credibility to write, I’m going to shoot more holes in it than a Republican at a gun club target.

I’m also worried about it’s effect on the mainstream folks who don’t yet understand blogging or that not all bloggers are out to get folks. Thus, I think we as the blogging community need to be aware of this book and help Wallace educate that audience about us.

But the negatives aside, read the book and let’s start the conversation. It will make us better.

One Nation Under Blog is scheduled to hit bookstores in October. It is published by Brown Books Publishing Group.

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).