First a front page story about attempts of traditional public relations firms to influence political blogs. The story reports that:
With big corporations now hiring public relations firms to pay fake bloggers to plant favorable opinions of the businesses online, many political bloggers are concerned that candidates, too, will hire people to pretend to be grass-roots citizens expressing views.
Second is an Op Ed column by liberal worrier Ellen Goodman, who is today concerned about the surprising permanence and easy access to historical information on the Internet. Goodman notes the dismissal of 2 bloggers from the Edwards presidential campaign organization after their posting history turned up “allegedly insensitive statements”, or so they are called in today’s front page blogger story. Goodman’s column provides readers with 2 actual quotes:
There was McEwan's description of President Bush's “wingnut Christofascist base.” There was Marcotte's slam on the Roman Catholic Church's prohibition on birth control as a way to force women to “bear more tithing Catholics.”
Thanks for illustrating the news value of Op Ed columns, Ellen! Your column quoted 2 terms that the squeamish Globe newsroom editors, on the same day, decided not to print. Thus Ellen’s readers could gauge for themselves if these terms are insensitive. The same news value is even more characteristic of blogs.
The 3rd Globe blog story is about Paul Levy, the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who has a blog about running a hospital and publishes information that includes performance metrics such as infection rates.
For all the ink the media wastes denigrating blogs, its funny to see 3 stories about them in a single Globe!
The common thread in these stories is our wrestling with the far greater transparency of Internet information. This has increasing importance as more and more of our individual daily activities are documented with Internet-based information.
I’m not terribly worried about this.
PR firms and politically oriented groups and foundations have always tried to be hidden influencers. That is the nature of their business. Their energies have traditionally been directed at the mainstream media. The classic example of such media manipulation is the funding of the media frenzy over “campaign finance reform” that resulted in the McCain-Feingold law. It turned out that the overwhelming majority of funding underwriting the so-called reformers came from a just a handful of deep-pocketed foundations.
Having many, many voices in the public sphere, rather than just a chosen few, makes such tasks of PR fakery more difficult. Permitting many voices a great concept. We should thank our founders for it. They called it “freedom of speech” and protected it in the 1st Amendment to our Constitution. It’s still a concept that can make us all squirm at times – with freedom comes responsibility. But it’s definitely a keeper.