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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blogging with Integrity, part two: what it means to me (and some other people)

(Part One of my commentary on this subject posted here yesterday.)

As I've mentioned before, I take up space among both mom bloggers and book bloggers, but I learned about this through my mom-blogging connections. And while Blog with Integrity was founded to address issues arising in the mom-blog community, that's not the only segment of the blogiverse that gets involved in marketing relationships and product reviews - or the only one who may find it important and helpful.

On a different scale and at a more specialized level, the book-blogging community has been debating some of the same issues - disclosure, transparency, compensation, recognition, responsibility - for quite a while as well...and so, while I was quite pleasantly surprised when My Friend Amy posted that she had signed the pledge, maybe I shouldn't have been. As she mentioned, this isn't a new concern of hers:
"If there's a discussion that's not new to us in the book blogosphere, it's the one about whether or not review copies influence reviews. Should bloggers disclose when a book has been received for review? Etc. so on and so forth, you know the story.

So anyway, one time when this came up, Wendi and I thought it would be cool to come up with a sort of Book Bloggers Code of Ethics, something simple that we could all agree on that would let people know where we stand.

Well that discussion went nowhere when we realized that we couldn't agree on what it should mean.

But the issue keeps coming up and it's certainly being dealt with in the greater blogosphere as well."
Amy also addressed some of the potential concerns and objections to signing on:
"I hold myself Accountable, why do I need a Pledge?-- Well, I'm not going to bring box cutters on airplanes anytime soon, and yet I still submit to a search at the airport. And I'm willing to sign contracts to give my word...why not a little internet pledge about integrity? It's a public unified effort to show that these are standards I adhere to. I don't think I have anything to lose by signing.

I Review all Books the Same Regardless of the Source -- Then signing the pledge shouldn't be a problem. In fact, the more information we give up front, the better. It leaves no room for doubt to grow. I'll never forget a blog comment I read where the blogger stated how shocked they felt when they realized bloggers were getting books as review copies. They felt deceived, even though I'm sure no blogger meant to deceive them. Signing this pledge doesn't negate our integrity, it reinforces it. Besides, the sad truth is that bloggers have admitted over and over that they review books received for review differently. Sometimes they take more care with those reviews, sometimes they are gentler, sometimes they cut certain language out of the review. There is a difference in the way bloggers review these books and it's time we recognized it.

I get that some of you aren't going to be ready to sign this pledge or make this change. I used to feel that it didn't matter, but it has become clear to me that it does."
Amy is not the only book blogger I recognized on the list, but I've seen discussions on other blogs and on Twitter where other book bloggers have come out against signing. I've seen some objections based on the fact that the pledge isn't specific to book blogs...but it's not specific to any blog niche. Blog with Integrity co-founder Susan Getgood addressed this on her Marketing Roadmaps blog:
"While we were in part motivated by recent events in the parent blogging community, it has always been clear to us that integrity is an issue for all blogging communities, not just the one currently being singled out in the media for a bizarre combination of damnation and faint praise."
In the same post, she also commented on some of the objections Amy mentioned (quoted in excerpts):
"Bloggers from all spheres agree that it is time to reaffirm our commitment to blog with integrity.

The most common critical comment was that bloggers don’t need a badge to blog with integrity.

Which is absolutely true. You don’t need a badge to blog with integrity, and if you don’t have it, no badge on your blog is going to give it to you. What the pledge and the badge do, however, is give us a way to collectively reaffirm our commitment to blog with integrity.

We need to do this now more than ever in the short but eventful history of blogging and online communities...

Blog with Integrity is more than a description OF your blog. It is a pledge TO yourself.

To take responsibility for your words. To respect others. To disclose your material relationships. To be honest, with yourself and your readers.

It’s what most bloggers do already. The pledge and the badge are just the tangible symbols that we are part of a community with shared values."
Susan reiterated in a subsequent post that

"Just as some folks like to display their support for causes and political candidates by wearing buttons and putting bumper stickers on their cars and others do not, some bloggers like badges and others do not. All we can say for certain is that the person wearing the button or the blog displaying the badge supports the cause. It is incorrect to conclude that the absence of same indicates lack of support. Or in the case of Blog with Integrity, a lack of integrity.

Some people don’t like badges. Don’t read more into it."
While we may not all blog about the same topics, we are facing some of the same issues and challenges no matter where we focus. Blog with Integrity is one response to that. It's a response to the marketers and PR people who ask us to post their press releases and plug their products as if they're doing us a favor. It's a response to those who send out one-size-fits-all pitches that don't reflect any acquaintance with the blog and its writer. It's a response to the bloggers who cheerily accept those pitches and products and do those favors, without necessarily acknowledging their source, because they want the products and the compensation and the attention - and who have complicated the game for bloggers who don't want to play it that way.

(Me, editorializing again: like the A list, these blogs exist, but I'm not particularly interested in finding them, and if I do find them, I tend not to stick around.)


Some thoughts on what Blogging with Integrity means to me, and to this blog:
  • The desire to remember details about the books I read was my initial motivation for blogging in the first place. Other than participating in a couple of blog tours, which I acknowledged on those posts as the source of the books I was discussing, most of my reviews for the first year here were of books that I personally own. Since the spring of 2008, the reviews posted here have been a mixture of books sent to me for reading and reviewing - by authors, publishers, or marketing reps - and books that I purchased for myself and have read at my own discretion. I expect that mix to continue for the foreseeable future.
  • If I do not specifically state the person or place who made the book available to me to read and review, it comes from my own shelves, and was either purchased, received privately as a gift, or won in a giveaway.  I have always publicly thanked the provider of a review copy as a matter of politeness, but that statement qualifies as disclosure as well.
  • I strive to write the same style of review, and to express my opinions fairly and honestly, regardless of how I obtained the book - after all, you never know who's going to read your blog. Even if I didn't care much for the book, I will do my best to be diplomatic about it, and to explain why it didn't appeal to me (but might work for a different reader).
  • I have reviewed movies here on occasion, but have always purchased my own ticket. I have posted about my family's travels and activities, including favorite restaurants and attractions, but none have ever been subsidized, sponsored, or provided by a vendor. If that should ever change, the source will be disclosed, just as it would be for a book.
  • I have rarely reviewed products here - partly because I'm rarely approached, but also because I'm less interested. Again, if that should change, the source of the product will be disclosed.
  • This blog belongs to the BlogHer Ad Network, which has policies regarding review content on its member blogs. It is subject to restrictions on compensated reviews, and on the type and dollar value of items that can be reviewed on blogs where the ads are featured. These restrictions have not been a problem for me, since most books fall below the dollar-value threshold, and in the rare instances where I have been offered compensation for a review since joining the network - usually a gift certificate - I have declined it.
  • My review policies are posted on the blog with a link in the sidebar.
  • In general, I make every effort to link and credit when I post something inspired by, or expanding on, something I encountered on another blog. In some cases, the blog linked may not be the primary source of the material, especially if it's a meme that's making the rounds or something like that, but I do try to make sure I give credit to the place I found it. If you ever find that I have quoted you without link or attribution, please e-mail me at 3.rsblog AT Gmail DOT com with your link and any necessary correction. I would appreciate not being called out publicly, in comments, for honest errors of that sort, but I will edit the post and acknowledge the revision.
I am pleased to display the Blog with Integrity badge on my blog, but it does not make me - or anyone else who posts it - the Integrity Police of the Blogiverse. It primarily means that I am responsible for policing myself and my blog, which I believe is as it should be.

7 comments:

  1. I've enjoyed reading these two posts. Personally, I blog with integrity and have not signed up for any pledge or display a badge.
    I know there are new issues coming up for the book blogging community, but I think it will work itself out and sometimes we jump on the first new idea that comes along during change without waiting and seeing.
    I think people should assume that I blog with integrity. If they are not sure, do I really think a badge on my blog will convince them? No.
    I appreciate your thoughts on solidarity, but I don't think that not putting my name on a list means I'm not 100% in support of book blogging with integrity.
    Thanks for these thought provoking posts Florinda!

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  2. Great analysis of this badge-no badge discussion. I have no problem signing or displaying the badge. I have been blogging with integrity and continue to do so...

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  3. Serena - I haven't encountered many book bloggers who don't already practice blogging with integrity, pledge or no pledge, which seems like a good thing to me. (I'm sure they exist, unfortunately - I just don't cross paths with them, which is actually OK with me.)

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  4. First of all, I like your new 3R's icon! :)

    I remember you talking about this before. I can see how some people might think you'd give a better review to a advance, or free book, but you do a goof job being objective. I think most who hand out the books for review know they are going to get some not-so-good reviews, it is partly subjective.

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  5. I don't see why, if everyone claims to blog with integrity, they should have any problem signing.

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  6. Mike - Thanks. I think Paul did a great job with the logo!

    There have been some instances - not necessarily with books, but other products - where people have actually been asked to post only positive reviews. But otherwise I think you're right - they take their chances. Not everyone likes everything. I think that you can - and should - be diplomatic about saying you didn't like it, though, no matter where you got it.

    Jeanne - I tend to agree with you, but some have said they just don't think it's necessary, because they're already being open and transparent in what they do.

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