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Ethics

Responsible Journalism


Don’t freak out…. but be aware that we are responsible for what goes on our blogs.  We are not journalists, we are not professional writers, but guess what?  We are top sources for the media and it’s crucial to keep our information clear, true and have our facts straight.

Remember the $25 million law suit against a Miami Real Estate Blogger Last year?  Lucas Lechuga has an amazing blog with unmatched traffic and people rely on his information to make decisions on their real estate investments.  Lucas has a responsibility, as do the rest of us, to check and double check our facts.  I am glad the law suit was resolved – there was an order to dismiss the case (according to Matt Carter’s Inman New’s article ) and a public apology posted on Luca’s blog:

Please accept this statement as a public apology to Mr. Tibor Hollo, Opera Tower and Florida East Coast Realty (FECR).  I acknowledge that a blog post that I wrote on November 25, 2007 contained inaccurate statements and misrepresented facts involving you, your firm and your projects.
The blog post dated November 25, 2007 telling my readers that Mr. Hollo went bankrupt in the 1980s was completely untrue.  As I have come to learn, neither Mr. Hollo, nor any of his companies has ever declared bankruptcy.  Additionally, the prediction I made regarding contract closings at Opera Tower was unfounded, and I’ve been proven wrong….

I assure you that Lucas did not have ill intentions, and this whole experience served as a lesson to so many of us.  Please know that you can quote sources and you could still be liable, there are even law suits against comments left on blogs!  So what can we do?

Take all the measures possible – make sure you have disclosures/disclaimers/declarations/releases on your blog about who’s opinion you represent and don’t represent – I know this may be a bit far fetched – or….just make sure you don’t piss anyone off enough to get sued.

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Joe at Sellsius shared this plugin with me a while back and I think it’s a great tool.

Matt Carter from Inman News wrote this after the Lechuga lawsuit:

Defamation and libel suits are a constant threat to newspapers, publishers and bloggers. The law offers many defenses against libel suits, and large awards, especially to public figures, are uncommon. Many states limit damage awards unless alleged victims seek a retraction or correction and are refused.

Matt also makes mention of the Media Bloggers Association – founded by a blogger that was threatened by legal action by the new York Times.

I’m definitely not the type to live in fear of being sued, and I am not afraid to express my opinion – knowing and identifying it always as “MY OPINION” – but always wonder if there can be too much!  Too many disclaimers, too many “in my opinions”, too many careful expressions of opinion.  Where do we draw the line? or is it so thick and distorted that it really doesn’t matter?

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Written By

Ines is all Miami, all the time. A Miami Beach Realtor® with Majestic properties, Ines authors Miamism.com, PrimeMiamiBeach.com, and MiamismPix.com and is always on communication's leading edge. She goes out of her way to engage and be engaged, often using Mojitos to keep the mood light and give everything she does a Miami flavor. You can find her goofing off or instigating trouble at Twitter, Flickr, Facebook or LinkedIn.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Jim Rake

    March 2, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Ines – thanks for the reminders. It’s always helpful to cite our sources…that’s just good “journalism”!
    Opinions, on the other hand, not only take on their author’s flavor, but let’s hope, have some logical basis. If so, then the reader may not like what is said, but sometimes the truth hurts!
    Afraid to express an opinion? Don’t think that’s something that concerns most of us.

  2. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    March 2, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Jim – I’ve seen bloggers loose their “voice” over fear to express their opinions. It’s sad because that voice is what made their blog interesting.

  3. Jim Rake

    March 3, 2009 at 8:56 am

    “that voice is what made their blog interesting” – Exactly!

    And, that, in essence, is one of the beauties of life….so many varied ideas to consider…..

  4. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    March 3, 2009 at 9:24 am

    I do think we can reach a happy medium where you can act responsibly and still keep your “interesting voice” – if not, might as well check your personality at the door with the rest of the jackets and suits.

  5. Elaine Reese

    March 3, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I’ve written a few “commentary” blogs as drafts, only to delete them before hitting the submit button. Too afraid of saying something inappropriate.

  6. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    March 3, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Elaine, YOU???? something inappropriate? come on? as long as you are not pointing fingers and can be constructive (which you can) and don’t openly call someone a JERK ….. do it! do it! 😀

  7. Miami Beach condos

    March 4, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Thank you for the blog post Ines. Being responsible with blog reporting is not only ethical and professional, it’s practical too. If you sensationalize a story just to get public or media attention, it’s only temporary and the other shoe will fall and crush your reputation.

  8. ines

    March 4, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Miami Beach Condos – I don’t think any of the “established” real estate bloggers are “sensationalizing” at all because none of us see our writing as “journalism” – it’s about giving facts and giving helpful information to our readers and clients – but it’s important to watch out how you put the information out – especially with libes suits

  9. Jim Duncan

    March 7, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Ines –

    I disagree. Some of the stories I and I’d argue we write could (and should) be considered journalism.

    If we don’t consider it journalism, what protection do we have?

    If we don’t consider it journalism, is it advertising?

  10. ines

    March 7, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Well Jim, let’s think about this – what is “journalism”?

    the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business.

    I guess we would have to define our purpose with our blog – I give my opinion and provide information but don’t consider it “brodcasting of news” but could easily be interpreted that way. My intent is not to provide these “news and opinions” as business, but instead to do it for my business. I know, I know…semantics.

    The question of what we could consider it, whether advertising or journalism for protection’s sake is not an easy one to answer – obviously NEW MEDIA is just that and we fall under a new blanket – as more lawsuits show their ugly faces, the question will be easier to answer.

  11. Jim Duncan

    March 7, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    God help me, I hope I (nor any of us, really) have to become/set the necessary precedents.

    I think that some of us – and it’s just some, so no blanket, do report news – original content, facts, opinion … are market reports “news”? Are interviews with local politicians news? Announcements about new developments/housing trends?

    I’d say so.

    wikipedia says:

    News is any new information or information on current events which is presented by print, broadcast, Internet, or word of mouth to a third party or mass audience. News, the reporting of current information on television and radio, and in newspapers and magazines.

    I’ve spent 1030 minutes trying to find a definition of “news” …

    I’ve found this from the EFF:

    … The definition of news media has been interpreted broadly, and we believe that a blogger who is gathering news for a public blog should qualify. For more information, see the Bloggers’ FAQ on the Freedom of Information Act.

    The CIA says (source):

    Representative of the News Media refers to any person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. The term “news” means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public.

    So I’d say that some of what we’re doing is reporting “news.” Are we journalists? I think the answer is “sometimes.”

    (shoulda made this a blog post 🙂 )

  12. ines

    March 7, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Should definitely make it a blog post – it’s still semantics and there would be a hell of a lot of interpretation to be made in a court of law – but it’s time. Blogging is no longer “new”

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