Archive for July 4, 2008

What BoingBoing doesn’t get about credibility, and why it matters.

[ music | Alanis Morissette – Ironic ]

I probably shouldn’t be enjoying Boing Boing’s implosion of credibility as much as I am. And I probably wouldn’t if it weren’t for Boing Boing’s incredibly lame defense.

“It’s our blog and so we made an editorial decision, like we do every single day. We unpublished our own work.”

What Boing Boing fails to realize is that this damages their credibility. You can no longer count on Boing Boing standing by what they’ve said. Sure opinions change, but what you said should have some weight. Even if you don’t mean it anymore, or no longer agree with it, you said it, and hopefully meant it at the time. Neither The New York Times nor Time Magazine “unpublish” stories. It’s cheap, and it tells people you care so much about what you look like that you want to hide past mistakes, which costs you credibility.

“There’s a big difference between that and censorship.”

True, censorship is when a force out of your hands, usually government, prevents you from publishing something. However “unpublishing” is merely an act of editorial cowardice. It means you don’t believe in what you’re saying. It means you shouldn’t be looked to for ethical integrity. How would Boing Boing have reacted had they discovered Newsweek or CNN were “unpublishing” stories, burying bad calls they made?

“Violet behaved in a way that made us reconsider whether we wanted to lend her any credibility or associate with her.”

You denied her credibility by making yourselves no longer credible. A truly ethical journalist would have let the stories stand, and if asked about them now, merely said that things have changed and you no longer feel that way. As it is, you’re trying to bury a past you feel is embarrassing, and that’s the type of behavior we mock in our politicians and don’t tolerate in our most highly respected journalists. If Violet did something stupid, you just cut off your contact, choose to no longer cover her, and let the past stand.

You don’t rewrite history. When you try to do that, you create exactly this type of “real internet shitstorm and pile-on”, and honestly, I can’t say you don’t deserve it. You’ve been caught with your hand in the cookie jar, and this is the smack on the hand you earned. This is your rigged truck crash test, your CBS News Killian document fiasco.

You can try to claim it’s just a silly Internet thing, but it’s not. Not unless you’re willing to call yourselves just another silly Internet site. Do you want to play with the big boys or not? If so, you better play by the rules.

I used to respect Xeni, in spite of the Xeni Sucks crowd. However, this ordeal shows me that she’s not above allowing petty disagreements in her personal life to cause great lapses in her professional judgment. and play it down all you want, this is a great lapse in judgment.

I may no longer agree with things I said or wrote five or ten years ago, but I’m not going to pretend I didn’t say them. When people know I’ll be honest, they will also believe I’m credible, because I’ll always try to tell it like it is. When you erase the parts of your past you don’t like, you’re not being honest, and when you’re not honest, you’re not credible. And if you ever want to be taken seriously, that matters.

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