Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 30, 2006 6:45 AM


Here's what Wikipedia says about the word Firestarter:

"The title character of Firestarter is Charlene 'Charlie' McGee , a young girl with pyrokinesis - the ability to create fire with the power of her mind. Charlie is a mutant."

It's the title of a classic book by Stephen King and it's a title I am now officially dedicating to people who Blog and Podcast about news-related items, but who do not do the basic fact-checking first before publishing.

I am not saying that Bloggers or Podcasters must have the same integrity or sources as the traditional media. I am saying that Bloggers and Podcasters who do have an audience owe it to themselves and said audience to make sure that what they are covering maintains the integrity of the truth.

Why the rant?

It has been brewing for many months. I listen to a ton of Podcasts and I follow even more Blogs and, at one point or another, I am hearing or reading something that is either false or has been exaggerated to suit the conversation, or a comment that could have been rectified with a simple search on Google.

While I am not saying that us Social Media people must be held to the same standards as mainstream journalists, I will begin to call those who don't do the absolute basics of fact checking a Firestarter (fret not, I've been a mutant myself once or twice along the journey).

The most recent example of Firestarter is the flurry of Blog postings over Apple who was accused of trying to copyright the word "Podcasting." There were rumors that Apple had sent cease and desist letters to companies who were using the word "Podcasting," etc... It turns out that Apple was actually only going after companies who were infringing on the term "iPod" (which they do own) and, Apple is in the process of trying to secure the rights to the word "pod" - which most would agree would be a stretch.

Point is, nobody looked at these supposed cease and desist letters (although, I thought Adam Curry did an excellent job of breaking it down in a recent episode of The Daily Source Code Podcast), nobody bothered to contact Apple or their Public Relations firms prior to posting, and very few people even attempted to contact the companies who had been sent these letters.

Don't be a Firestarter.

The last thing I would like to see is a standards and guidelines for Blogs and Podcasts, but I don't think we should all jump on one Firestarter posting and create our own brush fires along the way.

A little research and common sense goes a long way.

Only you can stop Firestarters.

By Mitch Joel