Journalism & Blogging

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between journalism and blogging. A journalist can be a blogger, but a blogger is not always a journalist.

There are some great blogs out there that report news on a variety of things for their readers, no matter how small their circulation numbers. That is a true free press. There are also some blogs that obviously are just people venting, others are more diaries. Then there are those blogs that are really advertisements in disguise. I never knew these exsisted until accidentally stumbling upon one such blog recently. There was an advertisement to make money from your blog. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Sounds interesting.” So I clicked.

I was lead to the underworld of blogging. A site that tells you that you can get paid for writing about people’s products. Well, that sounded questionable but potentially legit. I mean that’s what product reviewers do everyday. You never know where you’re going to find a source for that. So long as you give your honest opinion, does it matter the origination? Think on that.

Well, then you get to the fine print once they accept you. (I, of course, could not let these just go right by me. I HAD to investigate.) It says right there on your the login account home page, do NOT write in the review that you were paid to write it. Nor can you make it a category or tag. Well, if this was TV that would be against FCC rules, but I’m not sure if the internet falls under their complete jurisdiction. I remember a big stink a few years back when CBS O&Os were being asked by corporate to include a pre-paid feature story about how great Hawaii is. Sure it is great. We all wanna go, don’t we. But this was content PAID FOR BY HAWAII’s tourism industry. Not cool. I refused to stick it in my show at the time without proper labeling. I wasn’t being unreasonable. I’ve accepted that TV News is NOT journalism. At least not pure journalism. It is about making money. That was hard to come to terms with but its the truth, so take it for what it is. So, I’ll add the content okay. But I’m gonna have to put up a nice little banner the whole time that says PAID PROGRAMMING! That is the rule! And even if it wasn’t shouldn’t your journalistic ethics step in with a BIG RED FLAG!?

So back to blogging. This same thing is being done everyday by thousands of people across the globe. The money is not great but it’s something. About $6 per post of 200 words. These sites that set up this little scheme warn you that Google and the like are cracking down on paid blogs. They tell you to take out key phrases that might set off the spiders. (I won’t be putting them here for obvious reasons. I don’t want this blog to be taken down for talking about paid posts when in fact I’ve never written a paid post on any blog.) They proceed to add that you can say what you want about any advertiser you review, BUT (you knew that would be coming) the advertiser can object to it and demand it be removed and you get no money for all your work. (Hey, that’s just like in other media. Hmmm. See my paper on Advertiser Influence of TV News.)

It seems wrong that these paid blogs even exist. It seems brilliantly deceitful on the part of the advertising genius that came up with it. I guess it’s buyer/reader beware in this arena like so many others. It’s no wonder that motto’s like The X-Files’ “Trust No One” resonate with so many people these days. (Me being one such person.) But, like another of The X-Files motto’s proclaims, “the truth is out there,” we just have to dig a little harder to find it.

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