First Kill All the Bloggers?

Photo: Steven RollBy Steven Roll
ASBPE President

If you see a blogger on a bicycle, why should you swerve to avoid hitting him? It might be your bicycle!

What do you call 100 bloggers buried up to their necks in sand? Not enough sand!

If these jokes seem familiar to you, it’s because I’ve adapted from lawyer jokes.

What do bloggers have to do with lawyers?

For one thing, there are about as many people in the U.S. who make their living blogging as there are who practice law, the Wall Street Journal reported a few months ago.

At the same time, the number of journalists has significantly declined. There are about 80 percent fewer D.C.-based employees of major newspapers than there were just a few years ago, according to the Wall Street Journal story.

One thing that separates bloggers from lawyers and journalists is a code of ethics. Lost in all the laughter produced by lawyer jokes, is the fact that the legal profession has a code of conduct that is regularly enforced. Most attorneys can point to a former classmate who is also a former lawyer as a result of an ethics code violation.

Journalists typically belong to associations such as ASBPE or the Society for Professional Journalists, which have developed well-established codes of conduct.

But bloggers haven’t gotten around to adopting an ethics code yet. If they wait much longer, it looks like the government will do it for them.

One practice that has placed bloggers in the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s sites is failing disclose payments or other forms of compensation in return for blog posts about a product or service. The FTC is expected to approve new guidelines this summer that would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers for failing to disclose conflicts of interest, the Associated Press reported recently.

Among other things, the guidelines would require bloggers to disclose any compensation received in exchange for endorsing a product or service.

Some bloggers have criticized the guidelines as being overly broad and unfair. But that’s often the result when an industry fails to police itself. If bloggers wait much longer, their quickly growing profession will deserve the reputation it’s earning as a laughingstock when it comes to ethics.

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