The Drudge Report breaking the news black-out on Prince Harry’s deployment to Afghanistan is a good example of how blogging news sites are easily and quickly slipping into the pit of greed and ambition that mainstream media has been trying to lift itself out of.
When stripped of its ethics, social justice and responsibility, journalism is just gossip. There is no better example of the harm that gossip could cause than the leaking of a Royal’s position on the front lines of a war, to the benefit and amusement of an opportunistic enemy.
For so long, watchdog blogs criticized the traditional media for their seemingly cutthroat tactics in reporting the story. Whether accused of being money-hungry, cowing at political pressure and interests or victimizing the public in trying to break the news first, the media lost the respect and trust of their audience.
Blogs, vaunting themselves as the alternative to the mainstream media, became the forum readers thought would give them the trusted quality news that they longed for, free from market competition and the influence of advertisers and politicians. With that recognition—which bloggers are constantly demanding from traditional journalists— also come responsibilities.
Instead, there is a double standard for blogger news sites. The Drudge Report plays dirty, but the only force that could demand that creator Matt Drudge be held accountable or at least apologize, is the same public that has given him the influence which prompted the Telegraph’s US editor to call Drudge the world’s most powerful journalist.
The Australian celebrity publication New Idea that first reported the Prince Harry scoop on January 7 on its Web site and later in its magazine edition made little waves but was berated by its readers for jeopardizing the lives of Prince Harry and the soldiers who fought along side him. The Telegraph reports that readers called New Idea an embarrassment to Australia, adding the statement of apology issued by the magazine:
Suggesting it had not contacted the Ministry of Defence or Clarence House for confirmation, a spokesman for the magazine said: “New Idea was not issued with a press embargo and was unaware of the existence of one.
“The story was published on Monday January 7. Since then New Idea has received no comment from the British Ministry of Defence.
“We take these matters very seriously and would never knowingly break an embargo. We regret any issues the revelation of this story in America has caused.”
Jon Williams, the BBC’s world news editor, wrote a post for The Editors blog in which he explained the position of those at the BBC who made the decision to agree to the news blackout for Prince Harry’s deployment.
Drudge has been mum on his decision not to heed it, although, unlike New Idea, he was aware of the embargo. His explanation would be appreciated by this blogger, who is sad to see him chipping away at our decency, credibility and trustworthiness.