When we were looking for guidelines for ChicagoNow bloggers, we were influenced by this post from NYU professor Jay Rosen: "If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn't. So Let's Get a Clue."
As with our community guidelines, these blogger guidelines are a work in progress. Your feedback is welcome. Here it goes:
As a blogger on ChicagoNow, we expect you to do the following:
- Be transparent. Explain your possible conflicts of interest on your About page. Make sure a conflict is clear in individual posts.
- Be trustworthy. Be right. When you're wrong, correct as quickly as possible and be honest about it. Don't write misleading headlines. Give credit where credit is due by linking, including for copyrighted images.
- Use good judgment. Use good judgment when dealing with fellow readers and bloggers online and in public.
Because we want your blog to thrive here, we also hope you will do the following:
- Blog frequently and intelligently. We're not going to tell you what to write about.
- Build community. This means moderating your comments, featuring users' content on your blog, and interacting with users regularly and in a timely fashion.
- Keep us in the loop. We want to know if you have a problem.
Because of recent Federal Trade Commission rulings regarding paid endorsements on blogs, we also expect the following:
- Disclose any connections with current or potential advertisers and marketers. Explain possible conflicts of interest on your About page. Additionally, if you include any testimonials, shout outs or endorsements on your blog, the Federal Trade Commission requires you to disclose what are called “material connections” – the types of things that could cause readers to question the credibility of your review or your comments. Examples of material connections: payments, loaner products, free services, product or gift card giveaways and special access privileges. Bottom line: If you are simply a product fan, you don’t need to do anything. If you love Harleys and write about them on your blog, no need to make a special disclosure that you own one. However, if Harley Davidson gives you a motorcycle, lends you a motorcycle to use for two weeks or if you’ve been pitching their ad department you must give your readers a heads up. Always remember, openness and transparency are key – if you are being paid by a company or if a company has given or lent you a product, say so and provide details. These details must be in the actual post itself (i.e., I received [product or sample] from [company name] to review and was paid x dollars). A blanket conflict of interest disclosure on your About page is not enough. And keep in mind that if the FTC believes that you have neglected to make a requisite disclosure of a material connection, the FTC could investigate and fine you. Let’s try to avoid that.
(For more information on the FTC’s Endorsement Guides for bloggers, go here.)