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In another example of old media attacking the blogosphere, Press Complaints Commission chairman Sir Christopher Meyer has called for kitemarks to be added to news websites as a measure of their reliability.

According to Meyer, there is 'a crying need to be able to distinguish between what is rubbish and what is quality, between what is fantasy and what reliable'.

What is immediately apparent here is the irony of a lecture on 'trust' from somebody who caused a diplomatic furore after publishing a book full of insider secrets shortly after leaving his position as British ambassador to the US. Ho hum.

At any rate, Meyer intends the kitemark to be a seal of quality for the online editions of UK newspapers:

“I hope the day is not far off when a small PCC logo will be visible in a corner of the screen on every electronic page of every British newspaper and magazine."

So, presumably Meyer is saying that all British newspapers are quality, and never print anything that is unreliable? Would kitemarks be removed from UK newspaper sites when they publish 'fantasy' stories?

There has been a fair amount of criticism of the blogosphere already, mainly around the unregulated nature of the medium, and the perceived difficulty of blog readers in distinguishing fact from fiction.

True, there are plenty of blogs that spout absolute rubbish, but the same could be said of some tabloid newspapers. There are also bloggers out there who have contributed a valuable perspective on news items otherwise overlooked by mainstream media, so it works both ways.

Bloggers tend to be immune from commercial pressure on their editorial output, so in some senses the medium is more honest, though let's not get into Meyeristic generalisations.

Meyer's comments reek of protectionism, and the desire by established media to assert that only they are worthy of being called journalists, and that they alone are capable of distinguishing fact from fiction.

If the PCC really cared about distinguishing between fact and fiction online, it would perhaps give its kitemarks to bloggers who have been proven to be reliable and trustworthy, rather than just mainstream media sites. But then how the hell would it police such a scheme? We're filing this under 'impossible'.

Ultimately, it's up to the people who read their news online to engage their brains and decide for themselves which sites they trust. A pinch of salt is always required when it comes to the media.

As the old saying goes: "Believe none of what you read and half of what you see."

Graham Charlton

Published 11 September, 2007 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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