Evaluating Lee Becker’s Oconee County Observations

In this week’s assignment, we were asked to Oconee County Observations website and evaluate the quality of the blog.

3d person creating blog. computer generated image

The Oconee County Observations blog is written by Oconee County citizen, Lee Becker. Mr. Becker holds a Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He earned his B.A. in Journalism and M.A. in Communication from the University of Kentucky. Becker lists the purpose of the blog as “News and comments about developments in Oconee County, Georgia.”

While Lee Becker’s educational credentials certainly lends credibility to his writing, his blog profile lists the blog as a “hobby” and there is no mention of what he does for a career.   In Becker’s July 24, 2015 blog about the Oconee County Sewage Plant, Becker references investigative work he did in the first person, making himself part of the story. “I obtained copies of the Discharge Monitoring Reports for the county’s two wastewater facilities for April of 2013, 2014 and 2015 and for January of 2014 from the EPD.”  This first person narrative continues in Becker’s August 10th blog entry also about the sewage plant.  A comment to this blog referred to Becker as a “watchdog.” This leads me to believe that he is writing not so much as a professional journalist, but as community activist.

Due to the community activist/watchdog nature of Becker’s blogs, I do believe that there is a bias to it.  However, one could also say that he is following the SPJ’s Code of Ethics tenant of being vigilant, holding those in power accountable and giving voice to the voiceless (SPJ Code of Ethics). By using open records requests, Becker is verifying the information on which he reports.  However, while Becker writes about the information he receives, he does not see out the subjects of his blogs to respond to his criticism. The SPJ Code of Ethics states the he should:  “

“Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.”

The question of whether or not it is important that someone reporting the news is a professional is an ongoing debate.  Washington Post correspondent, David Broder, states, “You can’t just sit on your computer all day. You need to get off your butt, go out there and interview sources, investigate the issue yourself and then write what you’ve learned” (Friedman, 2010).  Bloggers are viewed as people who write about their opinion on a certain subject.  Professional journalists are supposed to remain neutral and back up their writing with facts.  If a blogger is presenting their writing as “news” rather than opinion, then I believe they should be held to the same ethical standards as professional journalists.

Non-professionals can absolutely show good judgment, assemble information for balanced stories, and build up credibility.  Philiadelphia Union sports writer, Shane Evans, believes that bloggers can use their blogs to build their skills, build a following, and obtain a career as a professional journalist.  He believes that the line between blogger and journalist has become fuzzy.  (Friedman, 2010).


References:

Becker, Lee. (2015). Oconee County Observations. In Oconee County Observations. Retrieved August 12, 2015, from http://www.oconeecountyobservations.orgFriedman, J. (August 18, 2010). Blogging vs. Journalism: The Ongoing Debate. In TNW News. Retrieved August 12, 2015, from http://thenextweb.com/us/2010/08/18/blogging-vs-journalism-the-ongoing-debate/.

Friedman, J. (August 18, 2010). Blogging vs. Journalism: The Ongoing Debate. In TNW News. Retrieved August 12, 2015, from http://thenextweb.com/us/2010/08/18/blogging-vs-journalism-the-ongoing-debate/.

“Society of Professional Journalists Improving and Protecting Journalism since 1909.” SPJ Code of Ethics. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2015 from http://www.spj.org.

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