Blogging & Ethics

Last week, I read an article on Independent Fashion Bloggers (ifb) about blogging and ethics.  Well, sort of. The article itself is about credibility and how bloggers can be more credible as a whole. Ultimately, though, it posed the question of whether or not bloggers -- lifestyle, fashion, beauty, all varieties, really -- need a code of ethics.

I think the obvious answer is, well, yes.

Blogging makes it is easy to lie. And it makes it easy to hide criticism. Lately, I've been reading Get Off My Internets (judge me!) a lot and the main beef of the forum is, mostly, the fact that so many bloggers of all varieties hide criticisms, don't confront issues with their blogs, and generally aren't upfront and honest. Obviously, having a blog doesn't mean you have to release your tax records every year; but honesty is the best policy. And if you're confronted about an issue with your blog, you should post it... not just hide the comment and pretend that criticism doesn't exist.

As a journalist(-in-training, perhaps), I really strongly believe in a code of ethics for the blogging community, partly because it is so easy for things to slip through the cracks and for bloggers to get away with a lot of sketchy things, which isn't fair to other bloggers, brands, or readers. Here are my suggestions for a code of ethics.

1. All gifted materials should be labelled as such and mentioned in the text of the post. This is an obvious one: brands want you to talk about their items and it protects them, as well, for you to mention it was gifted to you. As well, it's just honest.

2. Comment moderation is fine; but deleting and ignoring comments that ask important questions or provide dissenting opinions is not fair. (Not publishing anonymous/trolling comments is fine.) As you guys know, I cannot stand comments that troll or say opinions in a way that get under my skin. I just don't like being talked down to. That being said, I always publish negative comments, even if I don't like them, because I think deleting them and pretending they don't exist is kind of shady. I'm not everyone's cup of tea -- there are some bloggers I know I'm not a fan of -- and it's fine if people want to tell me what's wrong with my blog. Who knows -- maybe they'll give me ideas. The purposeful moderation of comments to only post positive things -- anything that only agrees with the blogger's opinion -- isn't fair to readers.

3. Bloggers should be honest about their situation. Some bloggers make a lot of money blogging. Some bloggers make exactly $0 blogging. Both are fine, as are any and all in-between situations. But bloggers should be honest. A blogger who doesn't use their blog to make money shouldn't writing advice for new bloggers wanting to monetize their blog, because obviously, they don't. And bloggers who make a lot of money from blogging should be honest about where their money comes from. No one has to provide specifics, of course, but readers deserve to know what kind of blog they are reading.

Those are my top three suggestions for bloggers, as far as ethics are considered. In general, I buy into the method of "full disclosure": you don't have to tell readers every detail of your life, but you should be as open and honest as possible. As well, you should be comfortable accepting and understanding all negative opinions you may come across. You'd think that'd be obvious -- with people posting hundreds of photos of themselves online, sharing their lives with the entire world -- but it's not. When you share a lot, people will always have something to say and bloggers have to be willing to hear it... even if they don't like it.

What do you think? What would you like to see in a code of ethics for bloggers? 

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Thank you for reading my blog! :]
xo Michelle

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