The blogosphere has been likened to the wild west. There are no rules, no regulations, and little accountability for writers, and ranters who use these public journals as their soap box. True, there are journalists who blog, but most bloggers are far from journalists, and don’t claim to be. So on one hand, there are professional journalists who are supposed to abide by a code of ethics, and there is growing and popular blogoshpere that holds writers to few standards.
With that being said, bloggers can land themselves in trouble and controversy. A recent example is Atlanta political blogger Andre Walker who blogs at Georgia Politics Unfiltered, and Peach Pundit (I met Andre a few months ago when we were asked to provide guest commentary on NPR’s News and Notes). It’s now been revealed that he’s on US Rep. David Scott’s payroll.
The Scott campaign said he’s been receiving monthly payments since the beginning of 2008, suggesting he has received additional payments since the campaign’s last filing with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
It looks like Walker wrote more than twenty posts about Scott between August ’07 to June ’08, and APN writer Matthew Cardinale notes that:
Walker wrote many positive items about Rep. Scott, including several posts which reprinted Scottâ€™s campaign and Congressional press releases almost verbatim.
This is Walker’s reported response to questions surrounding the ethics of his actions:
…he felt the campaign finance reports filed with the FEC were sufficient disclosure to his readers, even though those readers do not necessarily cross-reference FEC reports every time they read a blog entry.
This isn’t the first time he’s taken heat for disclosure/blogging issues. He apparently failed to initially disclose to his readers that he was paid by Vernon Jones for Jones’ blog design.
I’m in no way trying to single out Walker, but this case highlights the need for bloggers to always be up front, and transparent. The truth usually comes out, and while there may be nothing wrong with being compensated for services, when someone blogs about one of their clients and doesn’t make it perfectly clear, it blurs the line between promotion, and information, which affects all of our credibility.