The Rise of the Digital New Media Entity panel at the paidContent Live conference was one of the more interesting ones on Wednesday.
The moderator was Jim Weisberg, chairman and editor-in-chief of the Slate Group. He weaved current events into the discussion to talk about how these new platforms have a responsibility for what is being put on their sites, especially when it comes to sites with large amounts of user-generated content, like Reddit.
One particular topic that was raised involved the subreddit in which users have been combing through photos of the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Weisberg asked Reddit’s Erik Martin about his responsibility regarding the content generated on the site.
Many users were pointing at people with black backpacks on the site, and attempting to sift through the photos and videos, yet many were also finger-pointing potential suspects.
“There [are] all kinds of confusing chaotic information in traditional media and social media,” Martin said, during the panel.
When Weisberg asked Martin if the point was simply to “bless the chaos,” and “[not] take responsibility for what people post,” Martin answered:
“Yeah, we are sort of groundkeepers. We are facilitating the platform. We facilitate an action there to let people create spaces … I think in this case a lot of people just want to do something.”
While the other panelists—Vox Media’s Jim Bankoff and LinkedIn’s Daniel Roth—don’t have as much user-generated content on their respective sites, there should come a point during which owners of sites take more responsibility for such dire actions.
This panel left me with an uneasy feeling about Reddit and LinkedIn, for two different reasons. While Reddit doesn’t want to take responsibility for the content its users generate—even if the result can potentially be harmful—LinkedIn doesn’t seem to understand the role of credibility at all.
LinkedIn, a site for networking professionals, recently began publishing columns written by industry leaders. The columns have been successful, often generating with hundreds of comments each.
Then LinkedIn’s Roth had this to say about the columns penned by the industry insiders, and about how many of those personalities actually write their columns themselves:
“Probably about 80 percent. It doesn’t matter if they have a ghostwriter or not, as long as they want to put their names on it.”
Call me a traditionalist, but I have issues with both of these scenarios from Reddit and LinkedIn. Credibility and responsibility are important to any media outlet, new or old—just ask the New York Post and CNN about that.