Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"Clooneygate": has blogging leaped the shark?

Today's New York Times online prominently features an article called "A Guest Blogger, and an Unwritten Law." This was the first I'd heard of it (sorry if I'm repeating old news), but apparently Arianna Huffington took it upon herself to usher George Clooney into blogging. She presented the result, a defense of liberalism, on her HuffingtonPost.com. The problem was that George Clooney hadn't written it at all - Huffington had compiled some answers from previously published interviews, spliced together with material "ghost-written" by Arianna herself.

Huffington's piece has generated a great deal of backlash, and it's easy to see why - both the purpose and the appeal of blogging derive from personal and authentic communication. If there is any value in this form of communication, it is in the writer's intention to express something, direct and unfiltered. Perhaps the most thoughtful and pointed summary of the issues involved is by media watcher Jeff Jarvis, writing at his blog BuzzMachine.com:
I believe this betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of the medium: Blogs are people and the blogosphere is a conversation. If you’re not really writing your blog, if you’re having or allowing someone to do it for you, then you’re gaming me, lying to me, insulting me. In this little drama, we are Roxannes, Clooney is the dashing Christian de Neuvileette, and Arianna is Cyrano de Bergerac … or perhaps Pinocchio. The highest virtue of citizens’ media and the open age is transparency and this was not an act of transparency. I urge you, Arianna, to recant and set a new policy: Tell me who wrote what I read.
This might be a trivial case, but I think it's an important point to make - and hopefully others won't repeat Arianna's mistakes. As Jeff Jarvis joked in a follow-up post, it's a slippery slope to "What Would Jesus Blog?" Probably someone has already written that, though.

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