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January 14, 2005



"I'd hope that bloggers wouldn't take these kinds of payments at all, at least if they're assuming a journalistic role"
Dan, I disagree with the former statement of yours. Whats wrong with Bloggers getting a revenue stream for blogging , as long as they have a disclaimer alognside. As for journalist role, then they have to disclose their conflicts of insterest !! remember the "no kid left behind" and that TV reporter getting paid $240K , but did not disclose it ?? Is that journalistic intergrity ??

Mack Zulkifli

I doubt there is a problem with earning an icome derived purely from blogging, rather than the current trend that is more incidental blogging to underline a career/earning track that is paying your bills. However, the manner in which this income is derived, and what it pays you to do, must be open to questioning, as it is very much the motives behind the blog. When money are motives, right and wrong can be blurred, and a host of miscreants will be unleashed into blogosphere. The ethics are there to define which is which, so a honest income may be earned and malicious ones not yearned.


I fully expect so-called "citizen journalism" to become as rife with conflicts of interest and outright dishonesty as common, garden variety journalism or any other field of endeavor in the public sphere, for that matter.

Why wouldn't it?

By the time the election cycle really gets going in about six months, you can expect blogs to be as corrupt as the rest of the media, each candidate with their own set of robobloggers spewing out propaganda.

"I'm George Bush and I approve of this blog."


I think the definition of blogger is not being addressed. What is a blog? What is a blogger? DailyKos is a blog, but so is Penny-Arcade. These are sites that have content updated by humans. Is that a blog?

We talk about bloggers having a political agenda, but of course they do, they are citizens just like the rest of us. I think that this framework is a result of applying old rules to a new game. The people do not need a voice in the media if they can do so themselves. The media as a check and balance is being surplanted, and this is causing this new breed of citizen review to be held to the arbitrary standards that the media has had to deal with.

Let's start from scratch.



A couple of relevant links -
Great piece by Zephyr Teachout laying out the issues in Financially Interested Blogging, and (via Lex) the Dubner Oath

Bob McKeand

Do media outlets say "We receive X millions of dollars from the XYZ Corporation in advertising revenue per year. Please remember this when you read any articles about the XYZ Corp."?

Lets be honest! Lets punish the dishonest!

Brian Slesinsky

I lost track of what "these kinds of payments" refers to while reading the article. Payments for consulting or for writing a blog? What about Christopher Allbritton, who took payments from readers to finance his trips to Iraq? What payments should he disclose?

All sorts of folks write weblogs, and very few do it professionally. I hope you're not suggesting that amateurs give up any hope of doing serious journalism because of how they normally make their money, or that they should turn away business because of their blog.

Also, I didn't understand what the last paragraph meant. You're going to do the Silicon Valley talks for free?

Dan Gillmor

Brian, sorry to be confusing. In general, the kinds of payments that probably should be disclosed are ones that could cause a reader to wonder if the journalist has a conflict of interest.

I don't see the conflict in Chris Allbritton's case, as he collected a bunch of small donations from a lot of folks. But it's arguable, anyway, that if one of those donations amounted to half of all he received that it would be the kind of thing he should tell us about. (I don't have a specific threshhold to suggest.)

I'm not at all suggesting that bloggers give up what they do because of how they make a living. I do think that potential conflicts of interest are relevant.

And yes, I did mean that I'm giving the Silicon Valley corporate talks without accepting an honorarium.

Rogers Cadenhead

I think it's a mistake to expect webloggers to turn down sources of income out of a sense of journalistic objectivity.

Most webloggers write directly from experience about the subjects they know best, most especially regarding their professions. It's not unusual that one would earn money in a field that he covers on his site, as a political consultant like Moulitsas did with the Dean campaign.

As long as it's fully disclosed, and Moulitsas went exceptionally far in that regard here, a weblog's readers can judge the potential for a conflict of interest.


When bloggers can be bought by the pound, how will that skew the results of efforts to measure public opinion by collecting statistics on mentions in the blogosphere?


It's another example of the disadvantage the amateur bloggers have as compared to the "professional" journalists working for a big corporation.

The corporation's advertising and/or classified departments go after the money; the reporter is free to go after the news with what you could call a Chinese wall between him/her and the revenue stream.

The poor (in more ways than one) blogger does his/her work gratis, or else has to act as reporter, editor, publisher and ad rep.

Pity the poor blogger trying to make a living and still devote time to the blog. To avoid the raft of shit inevitable from one or the other ends of the political spectrum, it's pretty clear now that disclosure is a really good idea.

Maybe a standard page under the "about" heading.


Some fascinating background on how the WSJ put the story together from DFA's Laura Gross at Blog for America.


Although it is nice of you to identify possible bias caused by your income, I don't care very much. In fact I hope you take enough money from somewhere to profit from what you do. My interest in reading your column/now blog comes from your ideas, arguments and your accuracy with facts that I can check. Many reporters and bloggers write stuff I don't trust because of incompetence, political or philosophical bias, lack of ability to understand and respond to various points of view or desires to attract readers or be important. The sources of their income are not nearly important as these other issues. Keep up the good work and prosper.

Ted Shelton

One of my mentors told me, early in my career that "the only bad conflict of interest is the undisclosed conflict of interest." And followed that up with the advice that life is FULL of conflicts of interest, you can't avoid them. So what if you don't take money for speaking, does that really mean you won't ever have conflicts of interest? Are you going to avoid investing your money? Are you going to avoid having friends? A more reasonable path for bloggers and journalists is to strive for transparency when there are conflicts, or the appearance of conflicts. Create a page that you maintain that states clearly what the sources of your income are and where you are investing. Mention that you have friends at given places. Go as far as you feel you need to in disclosing anything that you think could be construed as a conflict -- but don't stop making a living, investing, or having friends.

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