Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why I'm (respectfully) not signing ....

I've been lured in to the debate on blogging with integrity, which seems to be the latest cause d'outrage from the internet set, out of curiosity (and Twitter, where every other post seems to be talking about BlogHer).

Best as I can gather the whole dustup started when some media folks questioned and therefore impugned the integrity of "mom bloggers" for their willingness to take pay for play with respect to consumer products without disclosing such marketing relationships on their sites.

The mom bloggers responded with outrage and said that a few bad apples were tainting the barrel.

Some folks responded to that by offering a respite from review blogging for a week.

Then other folks responded to that with outrage, saying the problem isn't in the type of blogging but the way it's being done.

And then they countered with their own challenge, Blogging with Integrity, complete with pledge and badge all "html"ed for the convenience of cutting and pasting.

Of course that's just my take, and each side that comes to the table says the other side misunderstands, so what I know is really not terribly reliable.

Anyhow. ...

I'm not a reviewer, although from time to time I have found a product or book or idea emanating from out there in the wide world of consumerism intriguing enough to include here. I've linked to things I haven't purchased by way of explanation or so as not to blur the lines between photographs I have taken and photographs I have not taken. Occasionally, a PR person has asked me to review something and I've done it, but they were never guaranteed a favorable review.

All of that is beside the point, however.

The point comes when a PR person, who is in grad school, studying to be a psychologist, and as such "better understand ethics," asked me to link to her company's site in a sentence I wrote a few years ago, which is still getting snagged up in Google searches. ... They'd pay me $95.

Meh. So much for her understanding of ethics.

In days of yore, journalists reviewing products sent freely by manufacturers would box the loot up and send it back or donate it to some cause so that they wouldn't benefit monetarily from the merchandise. There was such a thing as the appearance of impropriety. The height of ethics, however, would be the company laying out the cash for the thing to which they are reviewing and the denial of advertising dollars from companies they were calling out.

But that's how things used to be done, it seemed, before budgets got tight and fact checkers found themselves in a different line of work altogether in the high-minded news business.

And as professionals in the business dwindled dilatants (like myself) flourished. Anyone with an opinion has one; only they don't necessarily understand the rules of the game, which can be complicated.

What's my point?

I applaud the idea of a pledge for blogger integrity, but I just don't condone the marketing of it as a hip, new brand.

So, for that reason I won't be signing the pledge or publishing the badge here, although I will continue to follow its principles.

I worry that this school bus of a campaign, which I believe IS a brilliant way to introduce a concept to people who have never been in the field of journalism, may turn into a bandwagon if those who sign on don't understand it's only a first step.

Understanding what we don't know, in this case, is so much more important than what we think we do know.


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