NPR visited BlogHer 2009 in Chicago this week and raised the issue of blogger ethics that I’ve been ranting about for years now (can you believe I’ve been blogging for YEARS? How weird is that?)
The question is: If a blogger is receiving a product from a company to “review,” what incentive (if you haven’t had a journalism ethics course with Barbara Mack) is there to write a fair review? How many unqualified writers are willing to? Mightn’t it ebb the incoming goodies for the blog if company’s notice you are not saying nice things about their shabby, useless, or otherwise questionable products?
As a committed but infrequent blogger for MomCentral.com, I bide my time waiting to volunteer for blog tours that seem appropriate, not only to those who read my blog, but also for Moms and friends in general. For example I recently passed up the chance to blog about:
1) the “extraneous” in life, such as Cinnabon snack bars. Enough said there.
2) the complicated, such as Electrolux-and-Kelly-Ripa-support-women-with-breast-cancer-so-build-a-virtual-lemonade-stand-and-by-the-way-here’s-some-washers-and-driers-you-should-buy-and-if-you-blog-about-them-you-might-win-one. Huh?
3) the greenwashed, such as the “if-you-keep-buying-our-corn-syrup-sweetened-corn-flakes-you-won’t-notice-you-are continuing-to-support-damaging-farm-subsidies-for-corporate-corn-farmers,-so-let’s-distract-you-with-a-daisy-chain-field-makeover project” by Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.
I am not sure the best way to handle my choice to write negative when the product calls for it, so I consulted my Bible of technology, Wired magazine (my second favorite mag next to Orion, ironically) and found that “Write fair and balanced (actual definition, not FOX’s) reviews of products on your blog” is not one of Wired’s top “New Rules for Digital Gentleman and other Highly Evolved Humans.” I did discover I should be Ignoring my Exes on Facebook… oops!
How to Establish Integrity? Experience Counts
Readers want a piece of you, of your experience. They want to know how quickly (10 seconds? One minute? And hour?) it took that Tucks medicated pad to work. They want the pros and the cons (who wants a Tucks pad in the trash? Can’t it be flushable? What about the generics?)
If you write with your reader’s in mind, this should help to remember what direction a product review should take.
Sign a pledge
For those who desire some external oversight, check out Blog with Integrity. You can sign a pledge and post a badge on your site, one that reminds you and your readers that you aren’t a payola-driven-maniac.