I used to be a part of the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE) as an associate member. As a part of this group, I saw first-hand the piles of gifts that reporters are given in the course of their daily work.
The PR folk in the cities where we held our convention would literally roll out the red carpet. It was very interesting, I got to see some back areas of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, hear about how malls manipulate your senses to encourage shopping in Denver, and see Sue the T-Rex being restored at the Field Museum in Chicago.
I admit that it was fun and interesting. I also took all the swag without nary an ethical twinge. Then again, I was just another PR person and couldn’t give them any coverage anyway. However, it was different for the editors that were on the trip, and many of them politely declined these “gifts.”
Alan Tays of the Palm Beach Post writes about the dilemma for reporters as in an article he filed about the recent NASCAR Media Tour, excuse me, the “NASCAR Nextel Media Tour hosted by Lowe's Motor Speedway.” (we can talk about the woes of sponsorships another time). He suggests making a donation to charity instead of the gifts.
The Media Orchard had a great article about Journalist’s ethics. But what about bloggers? There have been a lot of posts over the last few months talking about the tactic of giving bloggers trips. Media Girl describes one coming up this month to the Netherlands.
There is some real ethical conflict with this. Over time, if a blogger sells him or herself to outside interests, it will damage the overall credibility of the “platform.” Hands down, I think such trips and goods are suspect. There is a difference between giving out samples, that usually must be returned, and straight out bribes.
We as communicators trying to reach out to bloggers for clients need to be careful not to corrupt the very communication channel that we hope will help us deliver the message.
Instead, we need to find where the interests of our clients and companies and the interests of the bloggers intersect. Bloggers are only human, and as such will be very tempted by free junkets.
John Waggner had a pretty good post about “samples” in his blog, and I think samples are a good thing to a point.
However, the line is very thin.