In this new media world blogs, and the people, like myself, who write for them, are sort of the old timers and as such we see the recycling of ideas and topics, both interesting and stupid, as an inevitable part of the business.
So it is no surprise that following the debacle that surrounded the recent departure of Michael Arrington from Aol/TechCrunch that some writer looking for a hot button topic would latch on to the idea that there needs to be some sort of ‘code of ethics’ for bloggers to follow.
Even though this was a dead subject years ago Frédéric Filloux at the Guardian managed to pump out some 1,300 words as to why what Arrington was wrong and drunk on power, and how bloggers have no ethics when compared to ‘real journalists’ like Walt Mossberg, and himself I would imagine.
Sure he tries to cover his ass with statements like this:
I’m not going to denigrate the blogosphere as a whole or TechCrunch itself, which harbours good reporters. Blogs are part of my daily media routine and, for the record, I’ll say many bloggers do a better job than presumed professional writers. Still, by construction, bloggers are more prone to serve third party agendas: many are penniless, young, untrained, unsupervised and their writing is unedited. A target of choice for manipulation.
But as you can see Filloux can’t resist pillorying the moral ethics of bloggers ‘in general’ as being easily bought especially when it comes to influencers.
One of the promotional tools proposed by the flacks, was dubbed as “The Blogger Army”. In short, a few hundred bloggers worldwide, presented as “influencers” that would convey pre-packaged messages concocted by the communication agencies. The bloggers didn’t have to care about the product or its underlying value, they just had to cut and paste the material they were provided with. All of the above for a $100,000 budget paid to a firm specialised in deploying the “army” – including a couple of well-know “influencers”.
That very same year, as I dug a bit further, I realised how many bloggers are deluged with gifts from the tech industry and how, to that crowd, the notion of flashing a Visa card to pay for gadgetry was seen as utterly ridiculous …
I’m sorry but I know quite a few influencers and if this type of thing ever happened to them you would hear it shouted from the front pages of their influential blogs and rip though the tech blogosphere like wildfire. There are many a company that has learned the hard way how this works; eg: Microsoft and their laptop give away a number of years ago, or the whole Kmart gift card mess not long after.
Those two incidents; and many more besides, show exactly what happens when influencers think they are being bought or mislead, or better yet that they are being used to mislead their readers.
To use this incident with Michael Arrington as some example of why bloggers need to have some bullshit code of ethics stapled to their foreheads is nothing short of insulting. Try suggesting something like this to someone like Louis Gray or Chris Brogan and see how far you get.
As much as any blogger worth their salt would love to have the success that was enjoyed by Arrington and TechCrunch not a single blogger that I know would forgo their ethics to get there. The idea that having a code of ethics would in some way make us better chroniclers of the tech world is ridiculous.
This idea passed into well deserved oblivion years ago and that is were it deserves to stay regardless of some “real journalist’s” need to pump up his pageview count.