The 2014 Beer Bloggers conference is rolling along in San Diego this weekend. One of the topics is “Free Beer and Other Quandaries for Beer Writing Ethics.” While preparing for the panel presentation, it quickly became clear bloggers do not fit neatly into traditional segments of the media.
For one, citizen bloggers fill many roles: reporter, investigator, historian, commentator and opinion page, to name a few. Crossing over into these varied roles creates a minefield of issues which take aim at a blogger’s credibility. After all, isn’t credibility one of the best benchmarks of success in one’s work?
Because of these varied functions, no single existing code of ethics adequately guides a blogger’s range of work. Thus, the following core principles are intended to provide a solid base regardless of role and serve as a starting point for any ethical practice.
Accuracy: Verify sources and information. Challenge claims and assumptions. Your credibility depends on it. Your readers (and subjects) expect it.
Transparency: Disclosure, disclosure, disclosure. Relationships, free products, complimentary tickets, reduced conference fees, advertisers. Disclosure is critical to allowing your readers to evaluate your work.
Accountability: Own your work and stand up for it. Accept criticism and correct mistakes. The more accurate and transparent your work is, the easier it is to be accountable for it.
Attribution to Sources: Always identify the source of your information. Quotes, writings, interviews, statistics, photographs, videos and other media: If you did not say it, write it or create it, explain who did.
Clear Separation Between Reporting and Opinion: Bloggers enjoy the freedom to readily switch between reporting the news and commenting upon it. Ensure readers can clearly determine the difference.