Group Seeks Professionalism in Blogs

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Robert Cox wants to bring some professionalism to the blogosphere.

As president of the Media Bloggers Association, Cox is about to unveil new membership policies designed to help bloggers who see themselves more as journalists than freeform diarists.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project finds that about 8 percent of American adults keep Web journals, most of them personal in nature even though the most high-profile ones may be about news, politics or technology. It’s the more serious efforts that Cox is courting.

Among the planned criteria: Members would have to take an online course offered by the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank, covering legal issues related to blogging.

Members also could seek credentialed status by undergoing training or demonstrating other work as professional journalists. They also must agree to the organization’s ethical standards and adopt formal editorial and corrections policies. Doing so could give them the backing they need to obtain review copies of books and access to newsmakers and events, Cox said.

Of course, having credentials from Cox’s organization won’t guarantee access. The question of whether to treat bloggers as journalists has come up repeatedly at major events such as the Olympics and national political conventions.

Cox also has been trying to persuade insurance companies to underwrite policies to cover libel, copyright infringement and other legal threats; he said those negotiations are continuing.

The changes are likely to take effect early next year, when the group will start charging a yet-to-be-determined membership fee, Cox said. Formed two years ago, the group so far has been free to its roughly 1,000 members, including former mainstream journalists Dan Gillmor and J.D. Lasica.

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