Bloggers, media, is there a line?
Bloggers, media, journalists, TV reporters, wine critics, mom. Can’t we all just get along? I know that there are a lot of shills out there, and there has been a lot of controversy in the Mommy Blogger arena about posting for peanuts, or in their case products, but the recent FTC ruling regarding bloggers really chaps my hide.
It’s not that I take issue with the fact that the FTC is requiring bloggers to disclose the fact that they receive samples. That is simply the ethical thing to do; it is that they are specifically and pointedly excluding traditional media from this ruling because they apparently have better “Independent editorial responsibility”. So really, you’re saying that BOb Parker actually discloses to us when he takes a press junket to Paris? London? Australia? Funny, I don’t seem to read that in his work.
Esentially, what the FTC is doing is widening the gap between tradition and new media in all arenas. Clearly, the straight up pay for post model is something that needs to be disclosed, but with over 2000 wine blogs alone, are you really going to police EVERY post by EVERY blogger to see if we are disclosing the fact that I got a $15 bottle of wine that probably cost the PR agency / winery / retailer $7? REALLY?
Now i’m all about letting your public know if you got something for free, and I try to include in my posts if I am reviewing a wine. Yes, occasionally i forget, yes occasionally i get so excited about a wine I don’t bother but clearly i will need to be more cognizant of that in the future.
But why not hold “traditional media” to the same scrutiny? Apparently, the FTC doesn’t think that bloggers are intelligent enough or ethical enough to hold our selves to the same level as the old boys club. Basically, if i get PAID to review items i get for free, then it’s ok but if i review items that i get for free, for FREE then I must disclose. HUH? The FTC apparently feels that those kids in the big buildings have a better grasp on what is right and wrong that me do, and that their reviews are not “endorsements”. THOSE reviews are not impacted by the fact that their reviewer did or didn’t pay for the item in question. MY reviews are impacted because I’m not a journalist. OR so I’ve been told more than once and loudly by the FTC.
To quote Tom Wark of Fermentation, who sums it up SO well:
Let me put this in plainer words. If a publisher sends me (a wine blogger) a copy of a new book about the wines of Bolivia and I review it positively I must disclose the book was given to me or face a fine of $11,000. If a reporter at the Wine Spectator (traditional media) receives a free copy of “The Wines of Bolivia” and reviews it positively, they need not disclose they received it free from the publisher. Put another way, if Alder Yarrow or Dr. Vino respond in the affirmative to my email to them offering a bottle of press sample of Mayo Family Winery’s 2006 Reserve Zinfandel with a request (though not a demand) that they review it, they must disclose they received the sample free of charge when they do review it—good or bad review. If I call Steve Heimoff of the Wine Enthusiast and make the same offer and he accepts, he (and the editors at The Wine Enthusiast) need not disclose they received the press sample free.
To also quote John Stossel, formerly of ABC News 20/20 and therefore not subject to freebie limitations, GIVE ME A BREAK!~
Does this potenitally give bloggers more credibility on paper? Yes.
Does this make me dislike the paper boys even more? You bet.
Will I make sure my ass writes “FREE SAMPLE” on every blog post? Well, yeah.
Will I say if I paid for a wine tasting at Joe’s Vineyards? No. Because that is up to the discretion of the winery staff weather to charge me or not, blogger, journalist or flirt.
This piece was not paid for by any means, liquid or otherwise and is purely an expression of my opinion. If the FTC comes after me, I’ll tell them to go see PinotBlogger for a free Suck It Parker! T-shirt.