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

Top Blogger Pay Controversy - Pat Phelan

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 18, 2008

I'm a big fan of Pat Phelan, one of Ireland's top entrepenuers and also one of Ireland's top read bloggers. Pat just set a cat among the pigeons in one of his latest posts: Flixwagon pay bloggers, non disclosure from bloggers or Flixwagon

Pat is of the opinion that blogging will be harmed if bloggers don't disclose who pays them to post. I agree (my money currently comes only from Intel.)

I do agree with most of Pat's post but not about this:

If you receive one cent you must disclose you must go public otherwise we are all tarred with the same brush.

I don't think anyone can be influenced with one cent.

How about drinks, how about a meal? I often disclose in my posts that I just had lunch or dinner with a company. I get T-shirts, and backpacks, and pens, and I almost always leave them on a street corner near my apartment or use the T-shirt to wash my car. I don't think a single one of my reader's will be judging my coverage by how clean my car is from the use of those T-shirts.

Companies cannot buy me with lunch, it would take far more than that, and then I would disclose it anyway.

Should readers of newspapers and magazines be informed about every tsotchke or meal anyone receives? I see journalists from Fortune, Forbes, WSJ, Businessweek, San Jose Mercury, San Francisco Chronicle etc, all the time, drinking and eating and carting off backpacks filled with pens and T-shirts. Should they be disclosing all of that?

I've written about Pat's company before, and he bought me several drinks. That wasn't why I wrote about Pat's Cubic Telecom. Please see: The Man Who Broke the Telco Cartel . . . and Bridged the Global "Voice Divide"

I often meet with companies and there are usually drinks and meals involved and yet I don't write about them. I only write about companies if I feel there is something to say. It's about the content of conversations and the meeting not how good the dinner was.

A year ago I was at one media roundtable at a posh restaurant with top journalists from leading publications and one of the top VCs at the table didn't like where the conversation was going and he stopped everybody and said "Let's get back to discussing XXX I believe the journalists are getting their dinner for free."

I was livid, I reached into my pocket and was ready to throw my money onto the table and walk out before being stopped by a colleague at CNET. I don't go to evening events for meals or drinks, I can eat and drink at home, and often in much better company.

I and other journalists turn up to evening events for the content, for the potential story that can come out of such events. It is insulting to think that we turn up for food and drinks.

I think payments should be disclosed and that bloggers should disclose every tsotchke and meal they receive only if they feel they were influenced by that gift. Otherwise just disclose the payments.

Take a look at Pat's post and see if you agree: Flixwagon pay bloggers, non disclosure from bloggers or Flixwagon

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