A PR firm called Issue Dynamics is setting up a "blogger relations" unit.
Issue Dynamics has done some excellent work over the years. But it also recently made news -- though not enough -- for one of the ways it works on behalf of at least some clients. As eWeek reported in February, a subsidiary of the firm issued a report denouncing municipal wireless installations without making clear that big telecom firms, which vehemently oppose municipal wireless systems, are among the firm's chief funders. (See also Glenn Fleishman's "sock puppets" piece about this.)
I'm not suggesting that the mass media have done a very good job in recognizing and exposing this kind of thing, but the opportunity for partisans (corporate and/or political) to launder opinions through unsuspecting folks is huge and, I fear, growing. Bloggers and their readers should be on their toes.
One of the imperatives in the emerging citizen journalism sphere will be to ferret out and tell readers about these techniques, in a systematic and lasting way. I have some ideas on how this might be done -- and I'm not alone; see, for example, the excellent SourceWatch (formerly Disinfopedia) wiki, which is steadily compiling -- with the help of a wider community -- some information people need to know.
Maybe Issue Dynamics will behave in an entirely honorable way when dealing with bloggers. Or maybe not. Either way, readers need to know who's behind the opinions, so they can make better judgments about what -- and whom -- they can trust.