There is quite a large community of bloggers in Cincinnati writing about topics ranging from wine, food and travel to politics, marketing, education issues and communications. On the Cincinnati Women Bloggers blogroll alone there are more than 80 women bloggers who call the Queen City home, including, and here’s a disclaimer, me.
An interesting discussion topic at a recent blogger meet-up dealt with ethics in blogging and the recent interest shown by the Federal Trade Commission in the blogosphere. The question being bandied about at the FTC? Whether or not it should police bloggers under the mission of guarding the public against false advertising. I don’t know what the general view in cyberspace is on this one – but from a news point of view I give a hearty “you betcha.” With many bloggers being compensated with free trips, gift cards and click through revenue, the temptation to run amok with good press for paying clients would be great. Without the training journalism demands, the scrutiny of an editor overseeing your work, or clear legislative guidelines, bloggers are free to sell their influence within the margin they personally feel is acceptable.
That may not matter to many – in fact, some bloggers push back at being described as experts on anything. But to those who hope to see the blogosphere replace traditional reporting someday, don’t cancel your subscriptions yet. Someone has to pay for the gathering, writing and dissemination of the news. And once you have compensated someone in cash or creds you have introduced bias. I think this is the biggest conundrum bloggers face in the scrappy world of news reporting. Everyone wants to find a way to make money blogging – and some have been very successful at it. But how do you maintain creditability for your voice if you are also the chief marketer, bottle washer and cook? How do you stay clear of lawsuits or claims of distortion in favor of a large advertiser when that is your sole or main source of income?