Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Taking the Pledge 

This article is an alert to bloggers in general about credibility. One cannot take things from others then blog about it without compromising credibility. That is obvious, but there are companies now that pay bloggers to mention products, and there are companies like Microsoft that dole out freebies to bloggers to get them to write about products like Vista.

The author of this article is "horrified" by what he sees happening. He shouldn't be. The newspaper world was loaded with freebies before Watergate when the press raised its ethics to level of helping unseat a President. Some freebies still existed when I entered the PR field. Reporters took them, but they didn't promise to write about your product or to mention it favorably. That has largely stopped, but the issue remains. When does a blogger jeopardize credibility by taking something from a source?

Because blogging is still like the Wild West with few rules and every man for himself, it seems to me a blogger has to be more strict than someone in the newspaper business with a printed code of ethics and watchful editors. I don't believe a blogger should take anything from anyone as a matter of principle. I also believe PR firms that tempt bloggers with freebies ought to stop doing that unless it is to allow someone to try something temporarily as a test.

That written, I here and now take my own pledge of accepting nothing from anyone for free. I have been asked to test things on occasion, and I have done that but I've never kept anything sent to me.

Does this sound high and mighty for a lowly blogger? It does seem laughable, but blogging is being compromised by freebies. It is getting so one can no longer trust what anyone writes. That's not good, and sadly, PR agencies have been out there creating phony blogs and doling out goods right along with everyone else.

Someone should take a stand somewhere. I would like to see PR bloggers publicly state their positions on freebies then hew to them. It would be good for PR in general.

This is definitely a blog topic that I have been doing a lot of thinking about recently. It's a difficult fish to get a hold on. Even the rules for excepting freebies within in the MSM are a bit vague. For instance, sports reports have no problem accepting tickets to the Super Bowl or any other sporting event. And, at those events, sport reports are typically showered with gifts. But, those are sport reports and they have always enjoyed the benefit of lower standards, in both their writing and what is considered to be acceptable behavior.

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