Ah, Grasshopper; Call It Blogger’s Naiveté

“For bloggers, it’s all about trust too: except weblogs are starting from zero, building their reputations from the ground up. Blog responsibly, and you’ll build a reputation for being a trusted news source. Don’t, and you won’t have a reputation to worry about.”

(John Hiler, Microcontent News http://www.microcontentnews.com/articles/blogosphere.htm)

“The question now isn’t whether blogs can be journalism. They can be, sometimes. It isn’t whether bloggers ‘are’ journalists. They apparently are, sometimes. We have to ask different questions now because events have moved the story forward. By ‘events’ I mean things on the surface we can see, like the tsunami story, and things underneath that we have yet to discern.”

(excerpt from Jay Rosen in the essay, “Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over” http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2005/01/21/berk_essy.html)

Readers, please excuse my blogging naiveté.  I presumed in this world of new media that bloggers and journalists, or cyberjournalists, are synonymous.  This is definitely not the case.

 It seems, even on this very island there are bloggers appearing as reporters, but truly have no sense of what it means to serve the community in that respect.

A few pages back, I detailed a blogger’s run-in with the Pahoa postmaster and the police.  The blogger, according to his weblog, on Christmas Eve was in the parking lot of the post office taking pictures of Americans with Disability Act (ADA) problems when the postmaster — the interim postmaster from Kurtistown — confronted him for taking photographs on federal property.

The blogger took photographs of police responding to the scene, and police officer Jennifer Lee, specifically.  Officer Lee reportedly was uncomfortable with her photograph being taken and asked the blogger to erase it.

When I wrote about this blogger’s run-in with the postmaster and police, I argued, based on the information I had at the time, that this blogger was in the right. And I equated this blogger to a member of the press.  I see now that I made a grave mistake. 

This blogger, in a comment today under the entry, “Police Release First Batch of Information On Unsolved Murders; Puna Has The Most, At 13,”  describes himself as a “communication specialist” with a weblog. His self-description, along with weblog entries today misrepresenting the facts about me, my writing career, and www.bigislandchronicle.com, have made me realize he is truly not one of my contemporaries in the press.

Still, yet, I ran into this blogger twice this week, both times acting like he was a reporter.  I saw him on Monday at the Pohoiki Bypass blessing, where he walked around everybody snapping pictures like he was a reporter like the other folks with cameras.  I saw him on Tuesday headed toward Luquin’s in Pahoa, carrying what appeared to be a reporter’s notebook.  He was out and about to inquire about the burglaries that occurred in Pahoa Town during the holidays, he said. 

Today, as I think about his blogger and his self-description versus how I’ve perceived him in public this week, Police Chief Harry Kubojiri calls me.  I had asked the police chief to respond to the blogger’s version of his run-in with the police officer and postmaster. 

Here is what the police chief says about the Christmas Eve incident involving the police officer and the blogger: 

The postmaster called police about a “male acting suspiciously” taking pictures.  The postmaster told police he had confronted the blogger, and the blogger did not give a reason for taking the pictures, just continued taking pictures after being confronted.  When police arrived, the blogger took a “close-up photo” of Officer Jennifer Lee.  Officer Lee asked the man why he took her picture and he said he planned to put her picture on the Internet.  “She felt uncomfortable and asked for it to be erased.”  Officer Lee asked the blogger why he was at the post office taking photographs and “he didn’t inform her initially why he was there.” When the officer asked the blogger for a photo ID, the blogger “gave her a business card.”  “She made contact with the postmaster.  He repeated the guy was acting suspiciously and they had asked him to leave,” the chief said.

You know, as far as I’m concerned, I, and anybody else for that matter, should be able to take photographs of public buildings and public servants, especially police arriving upon scene having been called about you.  But with that freedom comes a responsibility to not be a public nuisance.

That said, I think this is a good opportunity to raise the subject in our community of bloggers versus journalists, or cyberjournalists, I should say.

 Jay Rosen, the New York University Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute faculty chairman and author of “What Are Journalists For?” wrote the piece “Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over” in 2005.  (See link above.) While that was several years back, its relevancy remains as timely as ever.  He asks “the simple, tempting and ultimately useless question”:

“Are bloggers ‘real’ journalists? To put it that way is unnecessarily antagonistic. But it’s worse than that. It’s reductive, and smart people have been calling it that for years.”

Jay Rosen quotes Scott Rosenberg, managing editor of Salon and a technology-aware writer, who said nearly seven years ago: “Typically, the debate about blogs today is framed as a duel to the death between old and new journalism. Many bloggers see themselves as a Web-borne vanguard, striking blows for truth-telling authenticity against the media-monopoly empire. Many newsroom journalists see bloggers as wannabe amateurs badly in need of some skills and some editors.  This debate is stupidly reductive — an inevitable byproduct of (I’ll don my blogger-sympathizer hat here) the traditional media’s insistent habit of framing all change in terms of a ‘who wins and who loses?’ calculus. The rise of blogs does not equal the death of professional journalism. The media world is not a zero-sum game. Increasingly, in fact, the Internet is turning it into a symbiotic ecosystem — in which the different parts feed off one another and the whole thing grows.”


Scott Rosenberg equates the blogosphere with a “symbiotic ecosystem.”  In this supposed symbiotic ecosystem called the blogosphere, the key is for the different species of blogs to have a cooperative or mutually dependent relationships. 

Jay Rosen suggests, “Instead of starting with ‘do blogs have credibility?’ or ‘should blogging obey journalism ethics?’ we should begin in a broader territory, which is trust. Trust as it is generated in different settings, online and off, in both blogging and in journalism— or in life.”

NYU Journalism Dept. Chair Rosen maintains that, for these relationships to be cooperative and/or mutually dependent, there must be an establishment of trust.

In the virtual world and in the real world, I am personally guided by trust.   I trust situations in order to enter into them, and I trust people in order to stand by them and spend time with them.  In journaling or in cyber-journaling, as in life, I would hope that people ‘trust’ in themselves enough to strive toward credibility.

In the last couple of days, I’ve been pretty disappointed in myself for making mistakes, from collecting mis-information to not being careful enough in my writing and making typos to being careless in my associations.  As I’ve stated previously, this blog, and this life for me, really, is a “work in progress.” I make mistakes, and they give me headaches. Still, I want to be trusted — by my family, by my friends and by my readers.  Whether they exist in the real world or the virtual world,  I don’t want to differentiate.  I concede, there is a revolution going on in blogosphere involving journalists with blogs and communication specialists with weblogs.

I strongly believe that if you’re going to walk around with a reporter’s notebook and a camera and engage the community in public dialogue about your findings, you must blog responsibly.   This means taking ownership of your mistakes, and asking people’s permission to take and post their photographs. 

As an effort to facilitate some trust-building, I invite all Big Island bloggers to actively seek out a symbiotic relationship with the local press. Come to our annual meeting at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23, 2009 at the Coconut Grill. Become a Big Island Press Club member.  That said, whether or not a blogger is considered a “professional” or “associate” is a question that the press club would do well to ask and answer.  Hmmm, here we are in this pro-am revolution. Ah, Grasshopper.

“When you can take these rocks from my hand, it’s time for you to leave.”

(Thanks to a friend — you know who you are — who reminded me to revisit my Kung Fu episodes.)


28 replies
  1. Aaron Stene
    Aaron Stene says:

    Bravo Tiffany for blogging about blogging responsibly.
    Hopefully your sage advice will sink in with another certain pseudo Puna blogger/reporter who had a run in at the Pahoa Post Office.

  2. damon
    damon says:

    Thanks for looking into the situation further with the Post Office.

    For clarification, the police officer asked for my name. I told her my name and gave her my old “old business card” from my old job simply because it had the spelling of my name. You have a copy of my old card and it relates to nothing dealing with my blog.

    When the officer asked for Picture ID. I gave my license. No questions asked.

    I’ve never reported to be a journalist… or even a citizen journalist. This has been something that has been put upon me by others.

    I did tell the officer I was looking into ADA compliance. She asked if I was an investigator… I told her no. She asked if I was a reporter… I told her I report on my own blog.

    Both of the above said times you have said you have seen me in the past week is pretty ridiculous. My own Ohana gave up some land for the Pohoiki Bypass, and I personally told the owner of Rudedogg Tattoo that I would be looking for who ripped off the town.

    I will continue to write on things that interest me and blog about them. I will not ever present myself as a reporter. I can’t spell worth a shit and my grammar sucks anyways.

    I hope you can understand Tiff… that I am who I am.

    I’m sorry if I pissed you off, and I hope you get over it soon.

    “I strongly believe that if you’re going to walk around with a reporter’s notebook and a camera and engage the community in public dialogue about your findings, you must blog responsibly. This means taking ownership of your mistakes, and asking people’s permission to take and post their photographs. ”

    Your welcome to your beliefs. I do take ownership of my mistakes… I DO NOT NEED permission to take picture of people to post their pictures on my site. PLEASE GET THAT STRAIGHT!

    The majority of the times, I will ask for permission to take of someone, but please remember… that it’s not my “Responsibility” as a blogger to ask for permission.

    With Aloha –


  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Just FYI Tiff,

    “heywoodjablowme” is probably (most likely) Damon, and “Red” AND “Torch” are the same person … Mr. Stockton’s red-headed girlfriend.

  4. Mike Middlesworth
    Mike Middlesworth says:

    You’ve touched on one of the biggest problems with most blogging–no editing. Not that editors are smarter, but it always helps to have a second pair of eyes, particularly those of an experienced hand, look at what we publish before we do it.

    Your experience in print journalism serves you well in blogging, but as you say, you’ve “been pretty disappointed in myself for making mistakes.” That’s one of the hazards of being a pamphleteer, which is what bloggers really are.

    This is not intended as criticism, but simply to point out that the responsibility for what you publish is great, for it’s not shared with others, as is the case for writers who have editors.


  5. Dave Smith
    Dave Smith says:

    From Damon:

    “I will not ever present myself as a reporter. I can’t spell worth a shit and my grammar sucks anyways.”

    My response to that would be, “If it walks like a duck ….”

    If you go around with a notebook and camera and interview people, they will assume you are a reporter of some kind, even if you don’t identify yourself as such. That means you are borrowing on the credibility established by reporters before you. What Tiff, I and others are hoping is that you take care and be responsible.

    Mike certainly has a good point about editors, who are not perfect but catch many problems. The lack of them, or any journalistic training for that matter, is one of the pitfalls of new media, and even more reason for care.

    And as a side note, the image of your son is all over your blog and attached to your responses elsewhere, and since I doubt you asked (or could receive) his permission to do so, I would hope that if nothing else you would be conscious of the type of legacy you are leaving him.

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Being new to the island and also new to “Grapevine” for news on the Island, I would have the say the “Professionalism” of the “Journalist” in this situation is coming up a little short.

    If you wish to be Damon’s Mentor, I suggest you try another form of communication.

  7. Kim Jordan
    Kim Jordan says:

    A question for Damon….
    If the person who ripped off Rudedogg turns out to be a distant relative …..what will you do? Will you keep your word to Rudedogg, or protect a criminal?
    Airing the “dirty laundry” is one thing, but I am truly wondering how far this family blackout actually goes.

  8. damon
    damon says:

    If the person that ripped off Rudedogg… or any of the businesses in Pahoa are a relative… You can bet I will be the FIRST to report on it if I find that information out. I would leave the relative so hung out to dry that he wouldn’t ever want to come to a family function again.

    Especially if it’s a politician 😉 I have no problem mentioning what has already been published about them elsewhere. I don’t need to go finding news on them.

    Remember, I have reported things on Naeole, Hanohano as well as Kenoi that each of them would not appreciate… but I did anyhow. (Kenoi Education/headbutt, Naeole Difficulties during office, and Hanohano not showing up at things)

    Let’s get off the Ohana thing already folks. 😉

    Cause to tell you the truth… I wouldn’t doubt it at all if it was a distant relative that ripped off the town! (No I don’t know anything!)

  9. Tiffany Edwards Hunt
    Tiffany Edwards Hunt says:

    Clarification to Anonymous New To The Grapevine: My “Ah, Grasshopper” reference is not to insinuate that I am an expert, at blogging, and I am Damon’s mentor (!), but rather it refers to the fact that I am very much a student in blogging and in life and in need of my own Master Po.

  10. Hugh Clark
    Hugh Clark says:

    I do not wish to pick on Damon, who appears relatively sincere but also fairly naive. Mike makes a goodpoint about “second eyes” and he was mine more than once.

    I presently equate bloggers to be the internet equivalent of other reporters And some reporters are not worth reading, listening or watching. I am guessing so might be confused booggers. As much as I favor freedom of expressioon it comes with anticipated integrity.

  11. punatic
    punatic says:

    There was a void created in the digital netherworld when Hunter Bishop switched jobs and quit his blog. Hunter was a journalist utilizing an alternative medium. I consider you the same, and while you still have some kinks to work out, you’re quickly filling the void,Tiff. I thank you, and the growing number of participants here reflect appreciation also. Like Hugh and Mike, I also think some sort of editorial back up wouldn’t hurt you.

    I’ve nothing against Damon personally, and adore his little man partner, but he has lacked any credibility with me since he began posting on the punaweb. He’s too often been motivated by self attention and volume rather than substance. He strikes me as a journalist “wannabe”, even while flip flopping on what exactly his status is.

  12. Andrew Cooper
    Andrew Cooper says:

    “He’s too often been motivated by self attention and volume rather than substance.”

    I think that may be true to a degree, but that may describe most bloggers and professional journalists alike. I have noticed a trend in Damon’s reporting towards more serious and somewhat better done articles. The problem here is that his learning process has been rather public. Whether he admits it or not, he is a journalist in some sense. While bumping up against the rules (can you photograph a police officer?) we all learn where the limits are and explore these issues.

    Where will our blogging community be a year from now? Will it continue to grow in skill, content and importance in island life?

    It may be that Damon’s grammar and spelling has improved as well.

  13. Auntie Social
    Auntie Social says:

    Having lurked on Punaweb and Hunter Bishop’s blog for quite some time, I have overcome my reluctance to post to make some observations on Damon’s style. First, sheer volume and wise cracking seem to be the biggest objective. Damon just about single-handely got Punaweb’s moderator to impose a five post per day limit after he inundated a lot of threads. He continues to use his five posts per day as a feed for his blog. Damon once referred to himself and Hunter Bishop as “we journalists,” but nobody called him on it at the time. We constantly hear about his wife’s ohana’s political and social connections, but I have to wonder what his in-laws really think about all the internet grandstanding.

  14. damon
    damon says:

    Auntie Social –

    Get your facts straight! Just did a search and I have said no such things.

    Anonymous comments are bogus! Especially when someone says something like auntie social just did.

    “Damon once referred to himself and Hunter Bishop as “We Journalists,” but nobody called him on it at the time.”

    Geez Tiff… here is another chance where you could have verified something… before posting it on your comments.

    A quick search at PW under exact phrase would show you that I have said no such things.

    I believe it was Dr. Weatherford whom once said something about the validity of anonymous comments.

    Oh and Auntie Social… My in-laws read blogs… but you know, they don’t find mine that interesting unfortunately as there is much bigger things in this world then their son-in-laws blog 😉

  15. Auntie Social
    Auntie Social says:

    Damon, it was on Hunter Bishops’s blog that you made the “we journalists” comment, and I don’t know if those archives are still searchable or not. I’m actually surprised that you find my comment offensive since attention, any kind of attention, seems to be what you crave most. I had actually hesitated to post for that very reason, but it seems it might have been worth it.

  16. damon
    damon says:

    I hope everyone really reads what Andrew wrote above:

    “Where will our blogging community be a year from now? Will it continue to grow in skill, content and importance in island life?

    It may be that Damon’s grammar and spelling has improved as well.”

    Thank you for saying that Mr. Cooper. I remember when you first heard about my blog, you told me you were reluctant to put my blog on your ‘roll, but then it grew on you and finally you put it on to my surprise.

    The Big Island is seriously lacking in Bloggers folks! The more bloggers there are… the less target I will have on my back, that’s for sure… but the real key here… is that more information will be shared by all of us.

    No one forces anyone to read any ones blog… the more there is out there to read… the better it is for all of us.

    I myself don’t trust much of the traditional media. Tiffany herself has blogged about how the editor deleted content from articles she had written for the paper.

    I only recently started allowing anonymous comments on my blog.

    As I offered to Tiffany, I’ll assist anyone wanting to start up a blog. It’s not real difficult and then you can have your own two-cents in this “cyberworld.”

    Everyone please think of my blog as a “Journal of My Thoughts… or a Diary” that I just happen to open up to the world for comments.

    If I err, and I do all the time… I try my best to correct things.

    I hope others will start to blog… I actually have my eyes on about 3 start up bloggers now that have been really creating some interesting stuff. Still debating whether I want to link their blogs.

  17. damon
    damon says:

    Auntie Social –

    Everything catches my attention these days 😉

    I apologize for suggesting that it was PW, and I don’t ever recall saying that on Hunter’s Blog.

    I believe I have been quite adamant that I would never call myself a journalist, although others still make that mistake!

  18. Tiffany Edwards Hunt
    Tiffany Edwards Hunt says:

    Andrew Cooper: I would like to hope we have the makings of a “symbiotic ecosystem” by the close of 2009. I think you hit the nail on the head when you describe this learning process that is so public. Truth be told, we are all on in this learning process traveling our own paths seeking “enlightenment,” “ourselves,” “truth,” and/or the ultimate understanding of Word Press. The thing about our cyberspace is that we can actually step away from our computers and run into each other at the grocery store. That is all the more reason to pursue this “symbiotic ecosystem” in cyberspace here on the island and throughout the islands for that matter…
    I wholeheartedly agree, Mike, the second set of
    eyes is missing, and that can be problematic — as it is with newspapers. Then you have to also consider the, how do you describe it, de-evolution, or is it evolution, of grammar in blogdom.
    This is a whole new world for me, and I’ll tell you one thing, I really prefer knowing the names, and in some cases, the faces of people I am blogging with, as opposed to “anonymous” or “insert clever peusdonym here.”
    That’s not to make people who use pseudonyms uncomfortable here in the conversation, but to describe how uncomfortable blogging can be at times.
    I feel like I have this house at http://www.bigislandchronicle.com, and I am having a party that I have invited, not just my town, the world. The door is open, and everybody can come on in… Some people I recognize, others are total strangers…

  19. Jerry Carr
    Jerry Carr says:

    Thanks for throwing the party, Tiffany. I promise to try to behave decently in your house while still making whatever point I may have. The anonymous thing has come up on just about every blog with political content. I made a choice to post here (and everywhere else I contribute) under my own name. It makes me think more carefully about everything I post, and thus more likely to check facts and keep things civil. And I still make mistakes and stupid statements sometimes! At least they are MY mistakes and I alone get to own them, for whatever that’s worth.

  20. Aaron Stene
    Aaron Stene says:

    Damon,I hope you take to heart what I blogged about yesterday. I know you try to mean well. But on the flip side, it seems you are for the most part a “gun slinging journalist.” Blogging that way does indeed bring you eons of blog visits. However it erodes your blog’s credibility.

    On other hand, I decided when I started blogging in October 2005 that I would blog responsibly and with integrity. I know it has cost me blog visits. But I’d rather have a blog with credibility versus one without.

  21. JeremyG
    JeremyG says:

    I knew about Damon before he moved to this island thanks to his exploits on SEVERAL other message boards. At least 2 of them BANNED HIM. He takes whatever label gets him the most attention (as many hre have noted), and he is eating ths all up I promise you. Its funny to see peeps giving him way more credit for having any smarts at all.

    Srlsy tho-Im mostly worried that hell take this drama as a license to make more trouble on purpose just so he can throw up his hands and go WHO ME?! what a crock…..

  22. Bruce Albrecht
    Bruce Albrecht says:

    I just came across this thread (a little late, maybe), and thought it important to comment on your statement: “You know, as far as I’m concerned, I, and anybody else for that matter, should be able to take photographs of public buildings and public servants, especially police arriving upon scene having been called about you.”

    Not only *should* you be able to take photographs, it is quite within your right to do so, regardless of your status as a journalist, blogger, or private citizen. We legally have little expectation of privacy whilst in public, and especially in the case of government buildings like the post office, every right to photograph them. An excellent document stating your rights in these matters is available at http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm (worth carrying around in your camera bag, IMHO). While the officials were acting within their rights to question his activities, the blogger in question is under no obligation to desist, or even answer them for that matter.
    I am not trying to opine on the ethical issues involved here as that has been exhaustively debated already, I just though it worthwhile to share insight on the legality of the incident itself in terms of collecting information.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] blogging tactics is going to make all local bloggers look bad.I’ve tried offer advice, as has others to Damon. But it seems that he is perfectly content to go on his merry way regardless of the […]

  2. […] Tiffany has an excellent commentary at Big Island Chronicle on the sometimes rocky relation between professional journalists and blogging community. She points out that this relationship, so often portrayed as an adversarial situation, does not have to be so. If used properly, the community can benefit from both forms of journalism, creating a mutually beneficial arrangement. A highly suggested read! Posted by Andrew Cooper in Comments on Reality at 09:39 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) […]

  3. […] Tiffany Edwards Hunt’s Sage Advice To Damon Tucker About Blogging Responsibly 3 01 2009 A few weeks ago fellow Big Island blogger Damon Tucker had a run in with the police at the Pahoa Post Office. I bit my tongue at that time because I didn’t think it was terribly newsworthy event. However over the past weeks I’ve changed my mind about the latter. Especially after reading Tiffany Edwards Hunt’s latest blog entry about blogging responsibly. […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *