Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blog Editorial & Ethics Policy: Mine & Yours

The editorial policy of my blog is simple: I will write about what not only interests me but that which I believe will interest you. My blog’s subject matter is the book publishing industry and the specialized areas of marketing and public relations. I will also write about the news media, advertising, and digital communication. My readers may not agree with me all the time and I welcome feedback, constructive criticism, challenges, new theories, good resource-sharing, and anything they believe will further enhance the blog community I have created.

I will never plagiarize, knowingly break the law, or pass on opinion as fact in this blog. I might share fantasies, expose hypocrisy, or take on common wisdom, but I won’t purposely use the blog as a platform to just air petty grievances or grind an axe against an individual or entity without a basis for doing so.

Something worth noting is the idea of avoiding a conflict of interest. I don’t think it is possible to do this, for authors, all the time. Interests conflict all the time. If I write about a current or former client I will label them as such, even if they didn’t pay me to write about them. That’s the least one should do but what about when someone is not a client and I write negatively about them? Is there a conflict there as well? Perhaps I was motivated to write about them because they are my competitor or they compete with my client? You, as the reader, may have trouble understanding or knowing the motivations of a blogger and of where they are coming from. Just how much can or should be disclosed?

Regardless, some things should be made clear:

  • I can’t write negatively about those who pay me—a client, my employer, or an advertiser (if I have them one day). You should know that the absence of criticism against those who fund me is the norm for almost any blogger.

  • I won’t write demeaning things against family, friends, co-workers, and those in my inner circle. Again, what blogger does, unless they really don’t care about their relationships with those closest to them? It wouldn’t be fair to violate their sense of privacy either. Why should me dad or neighbor think that what he does or says will be fodder for my blog today?

  • You also won’t likely see me single out someone in the publishing industry—not a single literary agent, editor, publisher, consultant, or even a competitor in the public relations field or marketing industry. They’d have to do something truly horrible for me to spotlight them in an ugly way.

  • I am not a journalist—I’m a blogger. I am an online yenta. But I won’t gossip or purposely sensationalize. I also won’t violate someone’s trust. My blog is here to inform, entertain, enlighten, and inspire. I have a voice worth sharing on the things I know best and that mean the most to me. And hopefully to you.

I can’t help but think I’ve missed something. Chances are I left something out, but the beauty of an editorial policy is it can be revised. It should evolve, over time, based on changes in blogging, in society, the publishing industry and in the fields of public relations and marketing. One can’t foresee deep into the future but one can anticipate how human nature will act under certain circumstances. In the end, I aim to do the right thing but I’m human. I’ll make mistakes, miscalculations, misinterpretations, and misjudgments. I’ll be in a rush and screw up. Or I’ll want to throw around some moral authority and start preaching about something. Or I will perhaps on occasion, get to play the hero. I will use my pen—or blog—to hopefully achieve something good, something of lasting value.

I know one thing: You will decide the fate of this blog.  Your feedback, your desire to share my blog with others, and your continued support will dictate if my blog has lasting power.

Today I blog, therefore I exist. Tomorrow is yet to come. I am sure to follow my own rules and I expect to break some, knowingly or accidentally. Perhaps that should be my true editorial motto: “I’ll try, but I might step out of line.”  We will experiment and see what happens.

Blogs should be experimental. They should be unique. We don’t need more of the same—we want new view points, fresh ideas, new discoveries, and a better way to see things. That doesn’t mean one should be provocative for the sake of titillation or to get attention. Nor does it mean one should be contrarian just to play devil’s advocate.

But for a blog to thrive, it must tap into the essence of its subject matter. If an author wastes the opportunity to give its readers useful information or thought-provoking insight, then he or she is just taking up space. The blog becomes less than worthless, as a result, and gets ignored and dismissed.

Bloggers are unlikely to be critical of their advertisers and may even give preferential editorial coverage/protection to an advertiser. Other media do this, whether they admit to it or not. None of us are truly independent as bloggers, free of any ties to society that could clash with what we write about and how we write about it.

On the issue of blogs revealing truly valuable information, most bloggers don’t have anything so valuable to offer and if they did, they would choose not to reveal it for free. Why would a blogger give away trade secrets unless he or she found a way to capitalize on it? So, don’t expect me or any blogger to give away what they get paid to do for a living. That doesn’t mean you won’t learn things here or find what I say interesting, but let’s be real: no one is giving away volumes of rich strategies, ideas, resources or information in a blog if they are lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, etc. Book publishing is no different.

Please also note that at times you will hear straight-from-the-heart feelings, truth challenged, truth revealed, sarcasm, and maybe some cursing. But you will not hear words that hurt, words of racism, sexism, homophobia, or other isms. Not everything has to be PC, but I have little tolerance for ignorance, bigotry, or prejudice.

Every blog should have a clearly stated editorial policy. A mission statement is welcome too. Throw in a statement of ethical standards as well. Readers should know who the blogger is and what parameters or limits – if any – have been clearly defined. The reader is also responsible for reading in-between the lines and being aware of how the world works. For instance, don’t assume anything about anyone, but do know that many bloggers lie, or distort, ignore, cover-up, overstate or understate the truth. They may have a number of conflicts handicapping them, including certain limitations as to what they can say or do, due to financial, legal, religious, political or personal reasons. Further, most bloggers are not schooled in journalism, ethics or the law. They also may lack professional credentials, first-hand knowledge or relevant experiences as to what they write about.

I take my role seriously. I have a responsibility as a blogger to use my ability as a writer to make it worth your time to read my entries. I want them to make an impact. That’s my litmus test before I decide whether to post something. I must ask myself if I wrote about something worthwhile, and  in a way that is interesting, if not useful, to the reader.

Time will tell if my blog finds its readership and grows. I promise to deliver a quantity of quality content no matter how successful the blog becomes. I believe in promoting and marketing the written (typed, too) word and will begin by creating strong blog entries. In the end, you, the reader, will decide the blog’s fate.

And don’t forget to share this with a friend – many of them!

*** To contact Brian Feinblum just email andfollow him on Twitter @theprexpert.

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