My friend Julie sent me an article about new US legislation forcing bloggers to disclose when they’ve received products or money from companies they're blogging about.
We don’t have that rule in Canada (yet), but transparency in journalism is always a good thing, so I’d like to address the issue.
First of all, I want to make it clear that I don’t get paid to write this blog. In fact, the darned thing costs me money. (I’m paying a girl to put up some flyers around town – flyers which I paid to have printed. I also buy research materials about literacy to ensure I stay on top of the subject.)
I do hope to turn this blog into a book at some point, but that may be awhile off. But my motivation is, and will always be, just what the title says: to Get Kids Reading.
In my money-making job, I’m a freelance editor and journalist. When I worked for newspapers and magazines in the past and wanted to review a product, the large corporation which owned the publication bought any products I reviewed.
However, my blog obviously doesn’t have a corporation backing it (yet… hint, hint to any of you CEOs who want to back this blog…) So I don’t have a budget to buy products or books I want to review.
So when I review a product like Tag reading products or Crayola writing products, I contact the company and ask them to send me one. Sometimes companies also send me products or books (Scholastic, for instance), unsolicited, to review.
Here’s how I work. I usually find out about a product or book online or through word-of-mouth. If I can’t borrow it, I’ll contact the company and have them send me one. After checking it out, I’ll decide if I think it’s good or not. If it’s good I’ll write a review. In that review, I’ll also list any negative aspects of the product or book. If I think a product or book is not good, I won’t write a review about it.
I try to be unbiased. I truly do love LeapPad products, for instance, and think they’re excellent for literacy. That wouldn’t change if they never gave me their products to try out. (But if they didn’t, I wouldn’t review something I’d never tried.)
I believe in disclosure – I think it’s professional and I think readers appreciate it when you let them know what your biases may be. So going forward, I’m going to add disclosures to posts I write, in which I’ve been given the book or product. Going backwards, I’m going to add disclosures to past blogs in which I’ve been given the product or book. This might take awhile, but I think it’s a good idea.
Oh, one more thing. I don't believe in copyright. I know it's blasphemous for a writer/editor who makes her living from writing to diss copyright, but there you are. I think copyright has become more about lawyers and less about authors, which is why I don't believe in it. Having said that, I do respect other people's copyright. So I search long and hard to find copyright-free images, or I take pictures myself (which typically suck - I'm no photographer, but there you go). From time-to-time I find the perfect photograph and can't figure out if it's copyright-free or not. In that case, I will contact the originator of the image to obtain their permission to use it. Sometimes they don't get back to me, in which case I cite them and post a link to their website. I figure if they ever object, I'll take the image off my blog, and in the meantime it's good publicity for them. Plus, isn't "sharing" what today's web is all about? (Yes, it is.)
So that’s it. I’m glad the US has decided to force bloggers to tell people when they’ve received products or been paid by the company. I’m hoping that my fellow Canadian bloggers (and those in other countries) won’t wait for our government to do that, and will self-disclose before we get legislated to do so.
If this were the Academy Awards, this whole post would be that part where the president of the Academy gets up and bores everyone. If it were a car ad, it would be in mice-type. If it was a drug commercial it would be that weird fast-talk where they list all the creepy side effects. As it is, being a literacy blog, the main side effect is that your kids will be better readers. Suh-nap!