John Dvorak nails the "ethics" debate that sometimes crops up between "old" media and "new" media: it's all about reputation:
The public is the police. Things get even more complex as bloggers and new-media publishers arrive with a mix of news, hoaxes, and singular opinion. There are no standard ethics for any of these people, and despite stupid attempts to create a blogger's code of ethics, there never will be one except on a publication-by-publication basis. The holier-than-thou old media thinking will fall by the wayside. In new media publications, ethics are demanded by the readers, not the editors. With open forums, comment threads, and other mechanisms, the modern structure is policed by the public. Old media cannot grasp this concept.
Whether I trust the NY Times or not doesn't have anything to do with their code of ethics - it has to do with how I evaluate their track record over time. Oddly enough, the exact same standard applies to a small publication or blogger: either I rate them as reliable over time or I don't. The whole smokescreen of "layers of editors" and "clouds of ethical standards" is just that: a smokescreen. Either the writers have an agenda or they don't, and - more importantly - either they are honest about that agenda or they aren't. No one reading this blog is going to mistake me for a Java evangelist, for instance :)
His summary drives it home:
It seems very difficult to get a good grip on the changes taking place. What's really changed is that the barrier to entry, regarding newspapers and even television, has fallen away, and anyone can afford to put up a news site or produce a cheap video that gets freely distributed. In other words, the priesthood of the few who could manage to crawl into the sanctity of traditional media is over.
Fifteen years ago, as a product evangelist, I had one option: go to the trade press and analysts, and hope that they didn't mangle my message too much on the way out. Now? I can go for a bigger audience by approaching a well known trade journalist, but I don't have to - and I can also offer corrections to any story that gets posted if I think they are warranted (just as anyone is free to post corrections of me when they see fit). It's a whole different ballgame, and reputation is what drives it.