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Do Bloggers Have An Ethical Responsibility To Disclose?

The answer is yes. If you are going to represent others PR spin at minimum disclose that you are doing so. This is pretty basic stuff and I am amazed that so many bloggers are willing to pass others words off as their own – even if they simply agree with those words at the most basic level.

The NY Times flagged this today:

Brian Pickrell, a blogger, recently posted a note on his Web site attacking state legislation that would force Wal-Mart Stores to spend more on employee health insurance. “All across the country, newspaper editorial boards — no great friends of business — are ripping the bills,” he wrote.

It was the kind of pro-Wal-Mart comment the giant retailer might write itself. And, in fact, it did.

Several sentences in Mr. Pickrell’s Jan. 20 posting — and others from different days — are identical to those written by an employee at one of Wal-Mart’s public relations firms and distributed by e-mail to bloggers.

I don’t think the onus is on Edelman here – although Edelman might have posted a blog on this thereby providing full transparency to their actions. (the counterpoint to this is why should a PR agency reveal their tactics in a competitive communications environment – to which the answer is, transparency matters).

The onus is on the bloggers ultimately. Reveal if you are repackaging spin and other content, be transparent.

Thanks to Brett at Sun for flagging this to me.

One Response

  1. By Bill Paarlberg on March 9th, 2006 at 11:07 am

    Alas, there is nothing magically ethical about blogs. In fact, it would be magical if all bloggers _were_ ethical. It’s only people who are ethical, and few enough of them. And they have to choose to be that way. Ethics is a matter of choice, not of medium.

    Why should bloggers adhere to an ethical standard that is not shared by newspaper journalists or TV news, where press releases or VNRs are often run unattributed? For that matter why should bloggers be more ethical than your average letter to the editor writer, who sometimes has their letter written for them by WalMart, too?

    Our media world is one of spin, astroturf, greenwashing and product placements: artifice masquerading as reality. The limits of any medium — technological, ethical or otherwise — will be tested by any business or person who sees a niche to take advantage of. Blogs are today’s niche, tomorrow there will be another.

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