My previous post – Bloggers vs Journalists: Why bloggers are second class citizens – seems to have stirred up quite a debate.
There are a few things that have been brought to my attention since that I thought I should add. First of all (and somewhat going against my argument), it seems as though the budget Dubai article that raised my ire was commissioned. Well, accepted for publication at least.
The article in question has now been taken down by the Amateur Traveler site – possibly because so many people poured scorn on it. As Robert Cole points out – the piece in question can (temporarily) still be seen in the Bing cache.
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Secondly, I said the article was clearly the result of a junket hosted by InterContinental Hotels. A bit of further investigation (and a hat tip goes out to Shaney Hudson here), shows that the only traces of the author’s previously published work are to be found on the InterContinental Hotels Priority Club site. There, the author is described as: “a dedicated Platinum Ambassador member & The Community Ombudsman who travels worldwide & is an IHG brand expert.”
Conflict of interests
I can’t say for sure that she got her hotels for free in Dubai, but there is a clear, undisclosed conflict of interests here. It’s fine to put a little factbox at the bottom of a piece suggesting Hotel X or Hotel Y as a place to stay when you’ve stayed there. It’s another thing entirely to present the hotels of a group you’ve got a clear relationship with as the only budget options within a destination and refer to them continually throughout what is supposed to be a well-researched destination guide.
This was a case of desperately poor writing. But more importantly – and again this goes against my argument somewhat – it was a case of desperately poor editing. Chris Christensen of Amateur Traveler decided to put the article up, probably knowing how bad it was. It’s also difficult to understand why the obvious conflict of interests wasn’t highlighted.
Independent publishing on the web
Now here’s why I think my point is still valid. Chris of Amateur Traveler freely admits that the site is something he does in his spare time. He has set the site up as an independent publisher – but an independent publisher with none of the traditional high ‘old media’ publishing costs. Anyone can set up a site similar to Amateur Traveler.
He doesn’t make enough from the site to quit his full time job, and is clearly reliant on people submitting guest posts for free. Chris hasn’t been selected and paid to run the site because he’s the best qualified person to do so. There was no competition for the role – he has done it himself as a hobby, because he can.
Checks and balances
Again, this comes down to checks and balances. There are more in ‘old media’ journalism, and excreta such as the Budget Dubai post are less likely to slip through the net. Such pieces are less likely to be commissioned in the first place, and they’re more likely to be ‘spiked’ (ie. Not run at all). Chris should have been brave enough to respond to the author and say: “Thanks for your contribution, but I’m not running it – it’s awful.”
When the writers aren’t paid, the editors aren’t paid and the publishers can set up what they like at minimal cost, running it as a hobby, then the average standard is likely to drop. I repeat what I said in the previous post – there is some brilliant blogging out there, but it is largely drowned out by the tidal wave of detritus. There are too many people shouting, and very few have anything to say.
Rule of thumb for bloggers
So I’d like to propose something to my fellow bloggers (yes, I am one, as uncomfortable as I may be with the title at times). Before you publish something, ask yourself this: “Am I adding anything new or useful here? Or am I merely contributing to the wash of pointless noise?”
A crude analogy
Anyone can whop their genitals out onto the coffin at grandma’s funeral – it doesn’t mean that they should. And doing so doesn’t make them a Chippendale.