Dan Lyons, who made a name for himself by posting as “Fake Steve Jobs” for (at least in internet terms) a good long while has been named the new editor-in-chief of ReadWriteWeb, which is relaunching as ReadWrite and getting a makeover both visually and editorially. On the latter front Lyons has this to say:

As for the tone: We want to turn our writers loose and let them write from the heart, in ways that are more personal, passionate, provocative and fun than ever before. We want ReadWrite to be a lively place filled with wit and energy, a place where you find great stories told in a convincing, engaging way, with brains and a point of view.

While I like the idea that writers will be able to bring more of their personalities to what they write I’m also automatically wary of anyone saying their turning their writers “loose” since it reads to me like they are then being pushed to take strong opinions in an effort to ramp up the controversy. It’s a tactic that has worked for Weblogs Inc, Gawker and other online media companies in the past.

There was a lot of conversation going on around the Poynter Ethics seminar about whether or not truth and objectivity are even possible in a digital world where everyone can find their own set of facts. That seems like it shouldn’t be a point of discussion (the truth is the truth, regardless of what “support” you can find for your point of view) but it does bring into stark relief that fact that a lack of opinions is not what the web is lacking. And, if anything, saying that another media site will be moving away from some semblance of objectivity to one that’s more personality driven is inherently hurtful to the overall discourse.

I’m not actually advocating that all sites that operated under a media brand name should take the much-derided “view from nowhere” perspective since that leads to bland, uninteresting reading. But the personality-infusion does need to be tempered by solid reporting and a clear differentiation of what is opinion – both from the writer and anyone else mentioned in the story – and what is “fact.”

Yes, I know I’m taking an opinion here. But that’s what this site is for me: An opinion outlet. Anything that calls itself a news outlet needs to put that first, with op-eds clearly labeled as such. That’s the beginning of a better era of web discourse.

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