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kentbye's picture

Citizen Journalism Implications of Blog Doc Controversy

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(UPDATE 6/7/05 6:08p.m. -- John Hart has posted a public reply on his website, and I'm a bit speechless. It is certainly not a very rational response to the whole situation. Below were my thoughts on what I saw developing with the project independent of any outside influence or input from Chuck Olsen.)

There could be a bit of a PR nightmare brewing for the 59 Bloggers documentary in pre-production that I mentioned a few days ago. Independent filmmaker Chuck Olsen titled his film Blogumentary and expressed concern to the 59 Bloggers director John Hart that there might be some confusion over loosely throwing around the "Blogumentary" meme on his site.

Hart sent back a curt e-mail telling Olsen, "Please don't bother me with this bullshit nonsense." Then Olsen published an excerpt from Hart's e-mail on his blog. Hart apparently threatened Olsen with some type of legal action for publishing the e-mail.

Then David Weinberger -- one of the potential interviewees for the 59 Bloggers film -- responded to the controversy by saying, "I've seen how this new guy responds to a civil inquiry, I have asked him to drop me from his list of interviewees."

Hart then backtracked and removed all references to "Blogumentary" on his website -- along with a lot of other background information. Here's Olsen's archival screenshot.

At this point, we're only hearing Olsen's side of the story because Hart is not keeping a production blog (Bad PR on Hart's part).

So I see four lessons for citizen journalism from this little episode:

1.) There's a difference between social capital and normative standards and institutional capital and legal standards
2.) There are ethical and legal issues with publishing e-mail correspondence
3. ) This may have implications for establishing credibility and building trust with potential interviewees for citizen journalists
4.) It's bad to write something in an e-mail correspondence that you wouldn't want published in The New York Times.

More details below...

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