How do we know what we’re reading on a blog is written by someone without a financial or other interest? I’m not just talking right- or left-leaning, but a specific agenda, financed by someone else.
It’s quite understandable that consultants blog. It’s quite understandable that people who sell things, invent things, make things or do PR for people who do these things blog. And it may not influence their writing a jot. But we still need to know this, upfront, otherwise how can we gauge the quality and objectivity of the writing? I think this kind of thing needs to be more fully addressed by the blogging community. If we’re about to kill off traditional media, we need to know what we’re killing off and what we plan to replace it with.
Traditional media wasn’t always very good at being objective, or declaring an interest where there was one. But most journalists would be aghast if someone suggested they had a conflict of interest in their writing. On the whole I think journalists are very careful about this kind of thing, because they care or because it’s company policy. I won’t bore you with Dow Jones’ policy on this, but it’s strict (we’re not talking the editorials here, we’re talking reporting). That’s a good thing, and it’s mirrored in most serious publications. But bloggers have no such restrictions, which could be a good thing: There’s no harm in someone doing more than one job, and for there to be some overlap (read: synergy) between them. But we need to know all this upfront.
Perhaps these exist, but I can’t see declarations to this effect on blogs. I think there should be some, prominent and clear. ‘So-and-so works as a paid consultant for such-and-such a company that is in this field. Where a possible conflict of interest arises in this blog it will be flagged to the reader.’ Something like that. Do people do this? I haven’t seen it. If we don’t do this, are we not going to further blur the lines between what is real and what is fake?