An interesting wave of conscience seems to be sweeping the blogosphere, particularly UK based bloggers. This is centred round the age old problem, for journalists anyway, of ethics. The main battlefield of debate is centred around the twin poles of samples and press trips.
Independence and impartiality are the key to this debate and there are several voices out there in webland that achieve this, and have the respect of the industry and their peers. However the young Turks of the web are now wanting this but seem to be struggling with the conscience troubling decisions of whether to accept samples and press trips.
Every cub reporter on his or her first day has to struggle with that fact that if they are covering politics, especially local, they are at some point going to have to tackle the people who control the services they use. The cub has to learn that people will have respect for their opinions if they are given without bias. This is the central tenet of a reporter’s life, whether they cover whisky, politics or crime. It informs everything, including credibility. You have to be able to stand and assert that you cannot be bought.
It takes guts to stand up and tell someone your opinion, especially if it is negative, but if you are after the respect a seasoned hack has acquired over time, then you have to be prepared to put your head over the parapet. If you are constantly telling a company or individual that you like what they do/make, the praise can wear thin, and if that person/company the throws a curveball at you with the full knowledge the whisky is no good, and you still praise it – bingo zero respect. On the other side of the fence, manufacturers must be set for negative comments.
To be honest the issue of free samples and press trips, and other goodies, becomes irrelevant at this point. If a producer values your opinions they are going to offer this sort of thing any why.
When it comes to a journalistic point on this matter – you cannot write about something with gravitas and knowledge without being there, seeing and feeling things first hand.
So the question is that is going to happen in blogland… Are we going to see some of the second generation or third gen blogs disappear? What ever happens it is interesting to watch how citizen journalism (and blogging) is beginning to come of age