Blogger ethics

john ashcroft before he draped justiceIt’s been a long day today, what with the hour it took me to dig out the 4 feet of hardpacked slush between the cars parked at the end of the driveway and the bare road just on the other side. I finally got to the computer tonight to find this cryptic email in my inbox from Susan Harris over at GardenRant:

To redeem your shoes just email alec@sloggers.com and give him this redemption code. Give him your color choice and size. Enjoy!

Your code is: XXXXXX-XXXX GardenRantSusan Harris

My natural reaction, of course, was to fire Susan back a note accusing her of trying to buy my vote in the Mouse and Trowel Awards. I started multiplying the number of garden bloggers out there by the cost of the shoes and figured they must want the trophies really, really bad. I suggest that she go read the Bloggers’ Code of Ethics.

Later on, I finally made it from email to browser and saw the post explaining that the kind GardenRant folks were simply showing their appreciation to their ‘top commentors’ — though they don’t specify the criteria for ‘top’. (I’m betting they’re paying by the pound.)

So I am publicly apologizing to Susan and the rest of the crew for questioning their integrity. (Plus, at first I thought it was a joke to get me to wear pastel garden shoes when I love my old sneakers that put a blooming amorphophallus to shame.)

But seriously, that code of ethics is worth a read. Ethical behavior is a huge (and controversial) issue on the political blogs I frequent. Bloggers in that realm are struggling to gain credibility on par to the MSM (that’s the shorthand for mainstream media), which has some serious ethical challenges of its own. It was bloggers who dug up and stayed with the US attorney scandal that’s about to bring down AG Gonzalez and others when the MSM wouldn’t touch the story.

Reading the ethical guidelines, it challenges me to do a better job. Some examples:

Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

I often plug Cornell resources because I’m familiar with them, but also because I think they’re valuable. But I should always remember to write: Full disclosure. I work there. I wrote or edited this, or the researcher is a friend of mine outside of work.

Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.

I try to keep it in the ‘Art’ category. (My brother was disappointed by the content he found in the ‘woodies’ category.) And I have to admit that picture of John Ashcroft up at the top of this post makes ‘my mighty eagle soar, like she’s never soared before.’ (Go ahead and click it, chicken.)

Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas.

GardenRant gave me some shoes so I won’t have to garden barefoot any more. In exchange, I promise to continue to post contrarian comments there.

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Politics and the English Language

George OrwellGood advice from George Orwell in his Politics and the English Language first published in 1946:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
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