Simon Owens at Bloggasm surveyed newspapers across the country on whether their reporters should be allowed to blog on their personal time:
Of the 250 surveyed, 39 responded. Twenty-two — 56% — said they wouldn’t mind if writers blogged on non-beat issues without obtaining permission. The remaining 17 — 44% — either required disclosure of the blog, issued caveats over what subjects couldn’t be covered, or had outright bans on having personal blogs at all.
Surprisingly, most of the papers that responded to the survey had no written policy on blogs, Owens notes.
One of the more thoughtful survey responses came from Bill Doak, editor of the East Hartford Gazette:
“Blogs are really a Pandora’s Box for reporters,” he wrote. “On the one hand you have a reporter who, like anyone else, wants to be free to run home and say whatever he or she wants to say to friends, family, other reporters or on a blog. But the reporter risks his or her credibility and objectivity in so doing. Of course there is a place at every newspaper for those with opinions. But a reporter also squanders their objectivity by blogging, and that blog might also jeopardize the objectivity of the newspaper. So, to a degree the blogging reporter risks much more than he or she gains, not the least of which includes employment.”I'd add that these same risks apply to blogs published by newspapers. Clearly this is a time for experimentation and, like it or not, blogs are becoming a common feature in many newsrooms. But most papers aren't large enough to hire a separate Web staff, so questions of whether reporters should share their opinions, write commentary, or divulge personal matters are landing right on the city desk.