Like everyone interested in what Lord Justice Leveson would say about digital media, I cut straight to page 736. Here’s the relevant passage (emphasis mine).
[...] Putting to one side publications such as the Mail Online which bind themselves voluntarily to the Editors’ Code of Practice (and which is legitimately proud of the world-wide on line readership that it has built up), the internet does not claim to operate by any particular ethical standards, still less high ones. Some have called it a ‘wild west’ but I would prefer to use the term ‘ethical vacuum’. This is not to say for one moment that everything on the internet is therefore unethical. That would be a gross mischaracterisation of the work of very many bloggers and websites which should rightly and fairly be characterised as valuable and professional. The point I am making is a more modest one, namely that the internet does not claim to operate by express ethical standards, so that bloggers and others may, if they choose, act with impunity.
The press, on the other hand, does claim to operate by and adhere to an ethical code of conduct. Publishers of newspapers will be (or, at least, are far more likely to be) far more heavily resourced than most, if not all, bloggers and websites that report news (as opposed to search engines that direct those on line to different sites). Newspapers, through whichever medium they are delivered, purport to offer a quality product in all senses of that term.
So, what he is essentially saying, is that printed news is a different kettle of fish to the digital stuff. He’s half correct, I suppose, but I simply cannot agree with his assumptions about what consitiutes a credible news source.
Of course my little blog should be treated with less authority than, say, The Financial Times. But, if one is presenting oneself online as a reliable news organisation, then why shouldn’t one be viewed the same as any newspaper? Everyone reads news online and the internet still exerts influence, doesn’t it? Leveson sounds like such a Silver Surfer, here, who thinks that the internet is mostly animated cat GIFs, and any decent online journalism comes in spite of it.
On the other hand, I’m also relieved he didn’t delve too deeply into online conduct. As Sunny Hundal has written, bloggers have proven themselves much more adept at self-policing than the newspapers.