Do we really need a blogger badge for integrity?

A recent post on Neil Kramer’s blog, Citizen of the Month discusses the rather controversial Blog With Integrity group/movement and its associated badge.

While obviously sparked by the FTC ethics edict requiring full disclosure of paid or sponsored articles. The mainstream press appears to describe Blog With Integrity (henceforth referred to as BWI to save wear on my fingers) as a “mommy blogger” group. Given my previous rant on sexism, and how anti-male sexism is not only ignored but in some cases accepted and praised, this is the first reason I have for distancing myself from the current Blog With Integrity group. And I will admit it is not a reason I am particularly proud of.

The second issue has to do with the use of the loaded phrase “intellectual property” as quoted here:

I believe in intellectual property rights, providing links, citing sources, and crediting inspiration where appropriate.

A clearer explanation of exactly which laws are being referred to would make this portion of the pledge much easier to understand and not play quite as neatly into the hands of those who are trying to turn things like copyright into perpetual ownership instead of a time-limited grant of exclusivity as was originally intended. I am guessing the BWI pledge mainly refers to copyright and trademark, as I don’t see how a blog post could infringe a patent. I wrote to the contact e-mail given for BWI on 2009-07-23, even citing the Free Software Foundation’s “words to avoid” page and have received no response so far.

Finally, the third issue is with these words in the pledge:

I always present my honest opinions to the best of my ability.

On its face this doesn’t seem evil, but do we really need to pledge to be honest? How much trust do I really gain by actually taking this pledge? Either people believe I am honest person or they don’t. And I must admit that my situation is a bit different: some are willing to say I am dishonest simply because of certain events in my distant past, that speak much more of who I was then versus who I am now.

I agree with the essence of Neil’s arguments, and in particular, this paragraph which I quote here (slightly edited for language):

As much as I respect the sentiments, I hope this badge doesn’t become too popular. I would hate to see a two tier system on the blogosphere, where one person displays a badge of integrity, like a preacher carrying the Holy Book for all to see, while the rest of us are branded as lying heathens in Sodom, [getting intimate with] goats. Isn’t the logical conclusion — the hope of the promoters — that marketers will notice this badge and work with those displaying it? Do we really want that to happen? Ask Sophia’s parents about life in the Soviet Union, when people had to take pledges before getting jobs and apartments.

Indeed, the thought that one segment of bloggers is “holier” than the rest of us for taking the pledge doesn’t sit well with me. Like Neil, I think it is enough that I earn the trust of my readers by my words, not by taking a pledge.

I have always welcomed civil feedback on what I write, on both of my blogs (soon to become “all three of my blogs” in the next month or so). I will usually even publish comments from those that disagree with me.

Ethics tests and public relations professionals

Stumbled across this little gem today, and the cynic in me got a good chuckle or three out of it, so I had to share.

Bulldog Reporter’s Daily Dog reports that according to a study conducted by Penn State led by Renita Coleman, professionals in public relations (PR) do not deserve their often questionable reputation and actually score higher on ethics test than those in certain other professions.

As much as I’d like to believe this, the research is based on performance on a test which poses a set of situations that require the use of ethical judgment. The test shows that PR people did comparatively well on a test. But we all know the final exam is not given in a sterile classroom and proctored by a teaching assistant. No, the final exam is given in real life. Not only in the PR professional’s interactions with clients, but also in interactions with others outside of working hours.

Sometimes the most accurate exams, especially regarding ethics, are pop quizzes. I’ve learned that one from personal experience. The story itself could even be considered a good “garden variety” example of PR spin, for PR people, by PR people. But I think it’s ultimately up to my readers to answer that for themselves.