Skepticism is not a position; it's a process.
The problem of blind belief
On November 15, 2013, ABC News reported on Stephanie Thomson, a 23 year old psychic from Florida who was arrested for lifting $115,000 from another woman.
The psychic convinced the female victim that Thomson needed to cleanse her money of a curse.
Deceivers like Thompson depend upon uncritical believers, who seem to exercise no rational thought before giving up a fortune to a stranger. Such crimes happen frequently if you monitor the news, and the victims lack the skepticism that would detect the absolute nonsense of curses, spiritual conversations, and the like.
Such uncritical believing is prevalent in our culture, and sometimes journalistic bloggers fall into the same trap, following a story on the internet or a post idea that has no foundation in logic or reason.
I consider myself an objective blogger. I mean that, while I share personal experiences, I ground my articles in solid research, reason, and skepticism. I am a skeptic.
Some people consider skeptic to mean that one simply doesn't believe in anything or disbelieves everything. However, "believers" just twist the definition in order to dismiss skeptics. But, skeptics are essential in life and journalistic blogging.
Bloggers who consider themselves journalists must assume a mantel of skepticism to maintain integrity and objectivity. Some writing will always be skewed by opinion, but a spectrum exists between total subjectivity and objectivity. Journalists should tend towards the objective end of that spectrum.
Not all bloggers must be skeptics, but those that write in a journalistic style need skepticism to provide a check on their subjective opinion. If not, people are swayed and manipulated by persuasive language to believe errors, just like the woman in Florida stripped of her money. Skepticism and the scientific method aim to determine validity and eradicate error.
Defining skepticism and the scientific method
Through objective and scientific processes, journalists can determine and distribute valid information. And, even that validity only holds true as long as it can pass testing and experimentation.
You do a service to your readers by providing critical thought about information and ideas. Journalistic bloggers must have a higher standard than others because you bear a responsibility to your readers to provide critical writing and argument.
You want to have authority and integrity, to be an influencer, and skepticism is the perspective that will help you achieve that goal.
The second definition of skeptic in the Merriam Webster Dictionary provides a solid definition:
a : the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain
Believing that knowledge must always stand up to systematic testing provides bloggers with an incredulity that requires evidence. Brian Dunning of Skeptoid uses an even more precise definition:
The true meaning of the word skepticism has nothing to do with doubt, disbelief, or negativity. Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It's the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion.
Bloggers who aim at journalism, but skip the testing, questioning, and doubting, run a high risk of dispensing information that is not valid. Bloggers who are influencers in their community bear the responsibility to think critically through their arguments.
So, if you aim to be an influential blogger, you better be prepared to employ skeptical, critical thinking to your writing. Consider the ideas in the following infographic as you prepare to adopt an objective approach to blogging.
Skepticism and the scientific method are the solution to problems plaguing journalism
Take on the challenge to write with a skeptical eye, questioning beliefs and assumptions. You will gain power and authority as an influential blogger and readers will respect your careful, objective approach to writing.
The problem is that this process takes longer than just spewing ideas directly out of your brain. But, you don't want to be part of the problem for your readers. You want to be their solution. If you are, they will return to your site, and they'll bring their thinking friends with them.
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What do you think about this approach to journalistic blogging?
By Darin L. Hammond
Darin works for BlogCatalog, owns and writes at ZipMinis.com, and freelances as a writer and designer. Darin Publishes across the web on sites like Technorati, BC Blog, Blog Critics, Broowaha, Demand Media Studios, SteamFeed, and Social Media Today. Find Darin on Google+.