Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Bloggers should reveal relationships—a proposal for an online media color code

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 30, 2004

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

In my “blogging” I try to be as up front as possible. If I have a business relationship with someone I will reveal it. If I mention someone and that person is a friend, I will tell you about it.

I think it should be perfectly fine to color code online content to reveal types of relationships. For example, if you see a name of a person or company and it is green, it denotes a monetary or business relationship. A person’s name in yellow might denote that person is a buddy, a cronie, somebody I’m unlikely to say bad things about. A name in brown might indicate a bit of brown nosing. A name in red might mean a “special” friend (!)

The more information a reader has about the relationships that a reporter/writer/blogger has--the better. Let’s not hide behind impressions of impartiality. I am not impartial. There are certain people I like, there are certain companies I like—I will make that clear. It’s part of what we are developing as our “Up Front” disclosure policy.

Yet in newspapers and news magazines—those relationships between the writer, editor and industry people are hidden. There is great care to maintain an impression of impartiality.

There is a lot that can be done in the online medium that has not yet been tried. A color code for relationships might be an interesting approach to maintaining an honest media during a time of great fragmentation. Blogging is fragmenting the media landscape but it requires trust. Maybe a color code could help in establishing and maintaining a trusted relationship between bloggers and readers.

Overall, we need a new approach to media and PR and I believe we are on the cusp of big changes in these areas. I want to help lubricate the wheels of change. Stay tuned.


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