Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Greed is NOT Good


Sorry for the serious note but it's come to my attention that some of my fellow beer bloggers are demanding cash for posts and then passing them off as personal opinion, comment or recommendation and I'm just not cool with that.

There's a big difference between a blog being sponsored, or carrying advertising, to authors asking for cash for coverage and then presenting it to their readers as editorial - I don't care what Michael Douglas's Gordon Gecko character said in Wall Street, I think we have seen enough woe in the economic world recently to recognise that greed is just not good.

This trend came to my attention a few weeks ago and whilst I'm not willing to out those responsible I have been having a bit of a personal dilemma about what to do with the information; but when someone called my blog's integrity into question the other day over the Zeitgeist post , which I did NOT get paid for, I felt I had to let everyone who kindly follows my work know where they stand with me.

I never have and never will take payment for comment because if you have the courtesy to read my work then I owe you the courtesy of making it honest.

However, what I am doing is going back over my posts and marking up any that I've put up for my lovebeer@borough tastings, or those that I've had a financial interest by working with the party mentioned, so that it is utterly transparent.

Thanks for your continued support.

45 comments:

Tandleman said...

Well I have no idea who it is, but the suspicious number of articles about the same breweries does make me wonder. No-one pays me and no-one has offered to. Must be because I'm so transparently honest.*

Either that or my blog is shit.

* If they did it would be refused,

Cooking Lager said...

I'd happily take cash or free beer or owt. I'm throughly corrupt and bribeable and if anyone wants to bribe me they are welcome.

No ones offered to bribe me yet though as my blog is shit and bugger all people read it.

Ce la vie.

BarryM (Adeptus) said...

Do you mean payment in cash, or in beer samples?

I think samples are ok, as long as the comments are honest and it's transparent. I've had some from Purity and BrewDog, and as it happens, I liked them (I would, and have, paid for some of those beers too!) :)

Cash would be just wrong! Well, depending on the amount offered...

Ah go on, name and shame! :D

Ed said...

Yes, name and shame or do we have to start some unsubstantiated rumours? ;-)

Mark said...

Name and shame or rumours will start - this is the first I've heard about this kind of thing!!

I take a lot of pride in my blog and spend a lot of time on it. I think I've built it up based on my own honest opinion and enthusiasm. Send me beer and I'll write about it if I like it and tell others how and where they can buy it - it's a sharing kind of thing. Cash payment for comment is totally uncool.

Melissa Cole said...

Hi guys, not ignoring you just not well - actually wrote this post last night and don't know why it's only just come up.

Will come back to you all when I'm feeling better!

BarryM (Adeptus) said...

Get well soon!

Tyson said...

I've been asked to "rewrite" PR stuff as my own in return for various freebies but never, sadly, hard cash. Obviously my honesty and integrity preclude doing that. Plus I'm holding out for cold, hard cash!

TM and CL, don't lose heart, your blogs aren't that bad:)

DanCave said...

I wish I could get paid to review beer! I've had some beers sent to me to review like BarryM and others. But while there is a little pressure to write a good review, every time i've made a big deal out of saying to the brewer I will do a "honest and through review".

I have not been paid cash to review and the reviews have always been honest and open. I just figured getting sent samples was standard practice? A very small portion of my reviews are fueled by generosity anyway.

I won't mention who, but I have had the odd Irate person being upset at seeing reviews by the brewers who engage with the web comunities, and getting reviews.

Should we put an end to reviewing samples sent out?

haddonsman said...

Good for you, Melissa. I feel this issue's been the elephant in the beer-blogging room for a while now.

Melissa Cole said...

Hiya guys,
Sorry, managed to climb out of my sickbed for five!

Just to clarify, I'm not suggesting that samples are bribery in any way, shape or form - if you aren't used to freebies then it can feel like pressure and if you aren't comfortable with publicly criticising a beer then I suggest you politely feed back your thoughts to the brewer in an email and point out that you haven't published about their brews because you didn't want to publicly slate them.

What I was talking about is I'm aware of people demanding money for mentioning beer festivals and events and to even consider beers for review, but not saying that they are receiving funds for doing so, which I think is disingenuous at the very least.

There's also the flip side of that as well where a financial relationship to say nice things about a beer/pub/event could then lead to 'encouragement' to say bad things about competing beers/pubs/events - I'm not aware of that happening but it could so easily could.

If you want to make money from your blog fine, but be transparent about it was my general point.

Need more tea now... thanks for the well-wishes BarryM

Tandleman said...

Dan - It wouldn't bother me if I got no free samples. I've only ever had two lots anyway, but if they send me samples and I don't like the beer, sorry, but I'll say so.

I'm still none the wiser about this though.

The Beer Justice said...

Demand cash ? A chance would be a fine thing. Beer and the odd book is all I prostitute myself for. I'm clean, I think. Steve

Dan Cave said...

Thanks for the claification.

I've had 3 samples in the past, if one of them was horrid i would have said so. Unfortunatly for me they are good stuff. Like i say 95% of the stuff we review is paid for by ourselfs so that seems to be a bit of a non issue.

Demanding money? now that seems a bit off really. You want money? put some ads on your site, its easy.

I am going to continue to accept free beer if its offered , I think if we all make an effort to point out it was a sample it might stop confusion?

Melissa Cole said...

That's what I normally do, although feeling intensely guilty at the fact that I just haven't had the time to review a lot of the beers I've been sent recently and certainly don't feel like drinking any right at this moment!!!

GenX at 40 said...

Shocking! Only professional beer writers should be offered junkets, samples, or payment for stories based on general ad revenues and other the other access to treats that mere bloggers fail to be sent for the most part.

That being said, I get yoinks of samples, free books and my few sponsored ads say they are and never, sadly, come from breweries. Who the heck has opened their wallets? Send them a marching band and put up a plaque.

Guinness sent me a baseball hat yesterday. I have no idea why.

Alan
A Good Beer Blog

Dan Cave said...

Im off to thailand so i will have to leave this thread early :(

haddonsman said...

I demand to know if Singha are sponsoring Dan Cave's trip ;-)

Laurent Mousson said...

Well, looks like the blogsphere is hitting the same kind of iceberg as the good old paper press : blurring the limit between redactional content and advertising...
Oh well, I guess the offending parties are likely to get to a point where it's going to be so blatant averyone will be aware of it.

Anyway, get well soon, Melissa !

Jeffrey said...

Melissa, I think you need to chill a bit about this. I appreciate you're trying to make a living out of journalism and resent the hobbyists - I suppose I'd feel the same way - but really, people can tell the difference between paid for content and genuine blogging.

Barm said...

Names, c'mon.

Alan said...

Techniques, c'mon.

Pete said...

God, this is coming up more and more isn't it? We had a similar discussion about ethics over at Knut's blog last month.

I do some paid work for brewers that rarely impacts on my blogging and I'll say if it does.

This is a shame though. There are some breweries I write a lot about because I love them. I've never taken financial payment from them. It's deeply sad if we start to suspect genuine passion is financially fuelled. Blogging's strength is its (sometimes outrageous, sometimes blind, sometimes unreasonable) subjectivity. We don't have to get balancing quotes on blogs the same way we do in journalism. It's great. Hoe depressing if we start to suspect it's fuelled by ulterior motives.

But just to clarify, Mel - being offered payment is one thing. You're talking about blogger(s) DEMANDING payment then not disclosing it? Partly you have to admire the brassneck. But how slimy.

If you want to be paid by a brewery to write for them I hear there are some PR jobs going...

Melissa Cole said...

Yep, just to clarify, demanding payment - off to the cricket now but please keep the debate going, I'll tune in when we inevitably start getting spanked!

scott @TheBrewClub said...

Interesting! I WISH I could demand payment for the rubbish I write!

The few times I've actually gotten free samples I made it clear they were free samples and I gave them a fair shake - for better or for worse.

Transparency is key though.

Here for the Beer said...

We demand bacon for posts. It's not often successful, but when it is - mmmmmmmmm bacon...

Not to mention being we have a B&B in Vermont, you can never have too much bacon.

But seriously? Who are you talking about here? Out them - it will be fun.

Tyson said...

Paying people NOT to write would be more fun!

Scott - TheBrewClub said...

I'm going to take it a step further and demand bacon for comments. Top that Vermont people!

(This will be two strips please.)

Melissa Cole said...

@Scott - I've got visions of you sitting by the side of the road with a sign saying: "Will work for bacon"!

@Jeff - the fact that you think people know the difference between paid for and not means there shouldn't be any issue with marking it up as such should there?

Jeffrey said...

Melissa, are you suggesting that I've ever done what you're describing? About time you came clean about the accusations you're bandying around. You're on dangerous ground here.

Melissa Cole said...

Jeff, think it's your turn to chill here mate, not making that accusation at all.

Rabidbarfly said...

Totally agree with Melissa on this point, this can work the same way against bars and small businesses too, especially at this financially precarious time where we will promote anything to try and stay one step ahead of the competition.
Where is the line in the sand? how far do we go? As an operator I can say hand on heart that I would never ask for payment from any of the beers I sell at The Rake(other than from the customer of course!).
I recognise that i'm in a unique position as an operator of a bar because we get sent more samples than most, but when I decide to put a beer on, customers pay for it, not just a PR exercise, a running, healthy business.
Bit of a minor rant there but putting posts up for money paid by a larger company, that's immoral and in the end degrades peoples image of the trade in general.

Jeffrey said...

Melissa, you should have either been specific in your allegation or not made one at all. As it is you've left others to speculate as to who and what you're actually talking about. Well, you've also left others to speculate about your own agenda.

People who are trying to make a living out of freelance journalism are clearly going to feel threatened by those who did it online as a hobby. I appreciate that.

The correct response is to supplement and promote your own print journalism through the medium of blogging, as you have done.

The incorrect response is to try and bad mouth the hobbyists in the hope they either go away or become an irrelevance.

So - to clear this up and end the discussion - can you respond to mine and other people's requests on this thread, and come clean about what you're really referring to?

I'm sure the villains will then be exposed and chastised by all, while your motives in posting this will look entirely honourable.

Laurent Mousson said...

Jeffrey, something escapes me here : where did you dig out this notion from, i.e. that Melissa, as a writer trying to make a living out of it, resents hobbyists writing in the beer field ?

Neither the original post nor her later comments allude to this in any way, as far as I've understood them. But then as an non-native speaker I may be mistaken, in which case could you please point me to the offending bits ?

Thanks in advance.

Melissa Cole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Cole said...

Let me state for the record now, I think it would cruel, unpleasant, childish and unprofessional of me to reveal names, it would serve no purpose and was never my intention and I’m not going to be swayed by chastisement about my perceived motives, or be hectored into revealing my sources.

The only 'agenda' I've got is for people to know that they can trust my blog to be as unbiased as anyone can be about a topic they are so passionate about, and to highlight some of the ethical minefields creeping into blogging.

From this what I hoped to do, and appear to have achieved, was spark debate and bring some awareness to the ethics of the situation and encourage people to set their own standards - and I’m not the first person to do this, Pete Brown talked about something similar earlier this year http://petebrown.blogspot.com/2008/01/first-nail-in-bloggings-coffin.html and other blogs have picked up the thread too.

I know the phrase, ‘encouraging people to set their own standards’, sounds all very high-minded but I am proud to be a professional journalist who takes their ethical responsibilities as a member of the media very seriously.

I was taught the rights and wrongs of the trust relationship any public information outlet has with its readers or viewers by uni lecturers, editors, colleagues and books – and part of the ethics of ethics is that you should generally feel compelled to use them to improve your corner of society, in this case the beer-loving part of it.

So, I hope that clears that part up.

However, to address some of your other comments Jeff, I have never accused other people of being 'hobbyists', that was your phrase, and is certainly not how I see my fellow beer bloggers, if that’s how you see yourself then fine, but please don’t attempt to project your views on this matter onto me.

And nor do I feel threatened by them; I’m actually very pleased with the proliferation of beer blogs which are having quite the opposite effect to the one you suggest, the great work they do writing passionately about beer shows the mainstream media there is more interest in artisan brews than they commonly perceive and I get more work as result…

…hard to feel threatened about things that generate income when I’m ‘trying’ to make a living out of beer writing really.

Cooking Lager said...

When all said and done then, if you are ever offered a bribe, rather than be offended, any chance you can say to them "go see cookie, he's as bent as a 9 bob note" and push them this way?

Melissa Cole said...

I'm on the case matey, your transparency on this front is admirable!

Jeffrey said...

Melissa, making vague accusations in the hope you can cast aspersions on people without risking libel is hardly ethical. Sorry, I'm convinced.

You're being slippery. Come clean about what you're objecting to.

As it is, you're completely out of order.

Anonymous said...

@Jeffrey: if m'learned friend wants to hone his legal skills, why doesn't he go and conveyance somebody's house instead of trying to goad Melissa into additional disclosure?

Seems to me it's Melissa's choice if she wants to confine her comments to those she made in her piece and her responses.

hamilton said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Cole said...

Jeff there is zero libel issue here, and waving that around as some sort of threat is not going to bother me in the slightest, I studied all aspects of publishing law and stay up to date with the changes, so know full well what I can and can't say.

I also don't appreciate you calling me slippery, that's unpleasant and unnecessary - I've been very transparent about my motivation behind this post and subsequent comments, I just can't see why you're getting so upset about this.

Pete said...

I'm sorry to bring the tone down and apologise for being puerile but... FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

Jeffrey said...

Melissa, if you really do know the first thing about the law on libel (something I am not trying to make the issue here, by the way), then perhaps that's the reason why you chose not to name names - because you've got nothing to go on and you're just trying to throw mud in the hope it sticks on someone.

Again, not convinced. I've found you to be a good laugh when I've met you, but I do think you're out of order here. I'll let it lie.

Sid Boggle said...

Wow 'Jeffo', you'll let it lie having had the last word? Patronising and smug in one paragraph, and didja see where Melissa said zero libel issue? Big man...

-- Boggle