The Oconee County Observations is written by area resident, Dr. Lee Becker. While Becker refers to the blog as a “hobby,” his education qualifications exceed that of most professional journalist. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism, a master’s degree in communication and a doctorate in mass communication. Becker’s blog is clearly written by a professional of his craft. The balanced reporting and accuracy would easily lead anyone to believe this is produced by a professional journalist.

The purpose of this blog is best defined by its subtitle: “News and comments about developments in Oconee County, Georgia” (Becker, 2006). Becker employs the journalism of verification model in his blog to inform his community. Frankly, I wish my neighborhood had a blog like this; it’d be refreshing to read an unbiased account of the goings-on in my area. Currently, we’re restricted to the daily frustrated email chain that dominates our list-serv.

As Ward (n.d.) wrote, the democratization of media blurs the identity of journalists and what is considered journalism. Becker represents this point quite well. He does not appear to be compensated for this blog, and is not writing it as a “professional” journalist; however his dedication to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics is clear in his blog posts. Becker hits on all the major areas of the code of ethics, but none are more evident than his desire to seek truth and report it (SPJ, 2014). While Becker undoubtedly has opinions on the issues he’s covering, nothing is conveyed through his reporting other than the facts.

As much as I wish I had a similar blogger in my neighborhood, I wish most bloggers were as dedicated to the journalism of verification model. In 7 signs you might be a professional blogger, the writer considers herself a professional blogger, “because I treat it with hard work, dedication, and a vision” (Robinson, 2013). This rings true for Becker as well. He is clearly very dedicated to this work and had a seemingly simple vision for the blog; to inform. However, this can be applied to affirmation model blogs as well, and those too would consider themselves professionals. There should be an identifiable difference between the entertainment blogger and the unbiased news blogger. Perhaps in the “about me” section of a blog or in the mission statement, their intentions should be laid out. People will make mistakes, professionals certainly do, but if the intent is to provide unbiased coverage than I think that should be applauded.

Growing up I often heard a phrase tossed around that I feel applies to the rise of bloggers and citizen journalists quite well – just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. In this instance, anyone can start a blog, or film an altercation and put it online. In many instances this is a good thing, however if the individual isn’t aware of their own biases prior to uploading the content, or comments then they could be doing unnecessary harm. After all, doing harm is a violation of the journalists code of ethics.

References

Becker, L., (2006) Oconee County Observations: News and comments about developments in Oconee County, Georgia. Retrieved from http://www.oconeecountyobservations.org/

Robinson, A., (2013). Independent Fashion Bloggers. 7 signs you might be a professional blogger. Retrieved from http://heartifb.com/2013/04/15/7-signs-might-be-professional-blogger/

Society of Professional Journalists. (2014). Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Retrieved August 12, 2015, from https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Ward, S. J., (N.D.) Center for Journalism Ethics. Digital Media Ethics. Retrieved from http://ethics.journalism.wisc.edu/resources/digital-media-ethics/#difficult

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