Amidst the recent furore over Max Gogarty’s unblog-like/allegedly nepotistic travel blog entry on the Guardian website, a phrase caught my eye: Director of Digital Content Emily Bell’s reference to their “duty of care” to blogger Max.
It particularly interested me because I had a similar experience recently with a student blogger, who was on the receiving end of ferocious (and partly justified) criticism on an Australian alpha blog.
What was my duty of care to her?
On the one hand, it seemed, was an editorial role: to help guide her in responding to and managing the responses. I suggested splitting them into the constructive, the witty, and the insulting. To then dismiss the insulting ones, and write up a blog post compiling the best of the rest and admitting (as she did) that her original post was ill-informed or at least ambiguously phrased – this to be the first stage in a meaningful and hopefully constructive dialogue.
On the other hand was a pastoral role: to help her to deal with the emotional impact of such criticism. Thankfully she took it relatively well, and not too personally, even though some of the insults were personal. Various tactics were discussed for dealing with the responses, in terms of framing them more positively (as an opportunity rather than a threat) and in terms of taking emotional control.
The two roles mirrored the tension between serving both readers and writers, particularly when bloggers are not directly employed or paid by the news organisation.
So I’d like to ask you about your organisation:
Do you have a formal duty of care or contract drawn up with bloggers?
When a blog post goes viral like this, what procedures are put into place (e.g. increased monitoring of comments, informing or discussing with the blogger, dealing with comments off-site etc.)?
What would your advice be to bloggers caught up in a similar situation?
What would your advice be to publishers?
Anything else you could add would also, of course, be wonderful.
This blog post is part of the March Carnival of Journalism, this month hosted by Journerdism.
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