Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blogging with Integrity


If there's a discussion that's not new to us in the book blogosphere, it's the one about whether or not review copies influence reviews. Should bloggers disclose when a book has been received for review? Etc. so on and so forth, you know the story.

So anyway, one time when this came up, Wendi and I thought it would be cool to come up with a sort of Book Bloggers Code of Ethics, something simple that we could all agree on that would let people know where we stand.

Well that discussion went nowhere when we realized that we couldn't agree on what it should mean.

But the issue keeps coming up and it's certainly being dealt with in the greater blogosphere as well.

So when Hannah pointed out this website to me, I took a look, chatted it over with some folks on Twitter and decided to sign.

Here are some terms I am publicly agreeing to stand by. I like them.

By displaying the Blog with Integrity badge or signing the pledge, I assert that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is important to me.

I treat others respectfully, attacking ideas and not people. I also welcome respectful disagreement with my own ideas.

I believe in intellectual property rights, providing links, citing sources, and crediting inspiration where appropriate.

I disclose my material relationships, policies and business practices. My readers will know the difference between editorial, advertorial, and advertising, should I choose to have it. If I do sponsored or paid posts, they are clearly marked.

When collaborating with marketers and PR professionals, I handle myself professionally and abide by basic journalistic standards.

I always present my honest opinions to the best of my ability.

I own my words. Even if I occasionally have to eat them.

This does mean a change for my blog. While my review policy tells you that I accept a huge number of review copies, my individual reviews haven't. From now on, when I rate a book and let you know of any potentially offensive material, I will also include the source of the book.

Why sign the pledge?
Because I believe in proactive measures rather than reactive measures when possible. This issue won't go away and this is a clear and public statement that when I accept review copies, I will let you know and I'll still give you honest feedback. Also, I like some of the other terms of the pledge...like crediting sources. (by the way this is a criteria for judging in the BBAW awards)

Common Objections

I hold myself Accountable, why do I need a Pledge?-- Well, I'm not going to bring box cutters on airplanes anytime soon, and yet I still submit to a search at the airport. And I'm willing to sign contracts to give my word...why not a little internet pledge about integrity? It's a public unified effort to show that these are standards I adhere to. I don't think I have anything to lose by signing.

I Review all Books the Same Regardless of the Source -- Then signing the pledge shouldn't be a problem. In fact, the more information we give up front, the better. It leaves no room for doubt to grow. I'll never forget a blog comment I read where the blogger stated how shocked they felt when they realized bloggers were getting books as review copies. They felt deceived, even though I'm sure no blogger meant to deceive them. Signing this pledge doesn't negate our integrity, it reenforces it. Besides, the sad truth is that bloggers have admitted over and over that they review books received for review differently. Sometimes they take more care with those reviews, sometimes they are gentler, sometimes they cut certain language out of the review. There is a difference in the way bloggers review these books and it's time we recognized it.

I get that some of you aren't going to be ready to sign this pledge or make this change. I used to feel that it didn't matter, but it has become clear to me that it does. I'd love to see more book bloggers proactive about this! Feel free to go sign the pledge now!



Sheila (bookjourney) said...

Thanks for explaining this. I seen this earlier on line but did not really understand where it stemmed from.
What you are saying here makes perfect sense and I too have no problem agreeing to this pledge.

As always Amy - thank you. :)

ANovelMenagerie said...

I've also discussed this topic with numerous bloggers and written about it. But, it seems to go nowhere. I would love to see a Book Reviewers Pledge/Code of Ethics... that, I would join.


P.S. I do, however, think many people won't want to adhere to guidelines based on what I've read... but, you never know.

Amee said...

I understand why bloggers are signing this; however, I think it's sad that it's come to this. Bloggers aren't even paid. It's supposed to be a hobby. The negativity, doubt, nitpicking, etc. going on is so discouraging. I don't know how so many of you are able to forge ahead. I guess you're just stronger than I was!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I will admit that I review so many books, there are some I am more proud of than others. And I try to make sure when I am reviewing a book for a publisher, I'm not cranky or hungry or the kids aren't screaming at me. But I have always been honest to a fault. I would never dream of quoting someone without giving credit, or give a book a glowing review that I didn't so much like. This might not be apparent if you don't know me, though. I would have no problems signing this, but I'm not sure how to handle it. Is it something you post somewhere on your blog, like a review policy?

bermudaonion said...

I signed the pledge because I think/hope I'm already ethical in my blogging.

Lezlie said...

Thanks for the information! I just signed and posted the badge. :-)


Melissa O. said...

Thanks for the information! I just signed this pledge, as well--like Cathy I hope that I am already ethical in my blogging. Glad you brought this to our attention!

Jeanne said...

Thanks for publicizing this. I'm signing it.

As I've said elsewhere, I don't see why "negativity" is a problem in reviews, as long as you give evidence for your point of view. Someone who only gives positive reviews seems suspect to me, unless--like J. Kaye--you publicly state that you just don't finish reading books you don't like.

Thomas said...


It is interesting that you wrote about this topic. A couple of weeks ago I read a article about how the government was thinking about setting up standards for reviewers and even taxing reviewers. I just wish that I can find that article again.

The government felt that reviewers should be informing their audience on whether they received the product for free or if they payed for the product. Thus the audience of the reviewer would be able to weigh the quality of the review based on how the reviewer received the product.

The taxing issue is interesting. The government looks at the act of the reviewing a product as a service provided for the payment of a free book. If the average selling price of a book is ten dollars and you receive a hundred books, thus you received a thousand dollars for your service. Thus, the government is due about a hundred dollars worth of tax money. And we know the government wants all the money they can get their hands on.

I find it hard to review a book or album especially if I know the person and or support their ministry. If one of them offers me the chance to receive a free book or album to review, I would turn them down. There is no way I could be critical of product if it was given to me for free.


Jodie said...

Thomas that tax issue is insane! I'd heard about the plan to put in place structures of conduct for product reviewers but had no idea they were going to try and pull something like that. I'm not sure that's going to be possible because authors and publishers could just say they gave the book as a gift and the review was a nice bonus for them couldn't they?

Monica said...

Awesome website. I'm in!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I signed the pledge and grabbed the button but don't have the energy for a post. Truthfully, I'm at the point where I feel like these things should go without saying. If someone doesn't trust that another blogger is giving a honest review, don't read that blog. It's funny that after two years I've met some people who really know my taste and I really know theirs. I LOVE that. I don't know what's been spuring all of this talk about honesty (AGAIN), but I wish we could all just trust each other.

I'm not ranting, Amy, I promise. These topics are just really wearying. That's a word, right?? :P

All that being said, I will think twice about reading a book blog if I know the person is getting paid more than the cost of the book for a review--honesty policy or no. I think there are places for paid reviewers, but what I love about our group is that we AREN'T paid.

Anna said...

Thanks for alerting me to the pledge. Not sure I'll actually post about it, but I'm going to sign the pledge and put the button in my sidebar. I believe I've been doing things this way all along, so why not.

Diary of an Eccentric

Jenners said...

I like it! I'm going to do it.

Florinda said...

I'm glad you've signed on to this and put the word out - I'm really pleased to see book bloggers get behind this. I like when there's crossover between my blogging worlds :-).

I signed the pledge last week, and I think I was already practicing it anyway. It originated among the mom bloggers, who are going through at least as much upheaval over reviewing, compensation, and disclosure/ethics as book bloggers are (and maybe more, since many of them got into blogging for more personal reasons, and now they're being very targeted by marketers).

Thanks for posting about Blog with Integrity, Amy!

Serena said...

I've signed the pledge and added it to my book review policy page. thanks for the information.

TexasRed said...

I've signed the pledge and am posting about it on Thursday (8/6).

Heidenkind said...

I think it's interesting that you and Wendi couldn't agree on a blogging code of ethics. And that's just two people! Imagine if everyone tried to agree on blogging code of ethics.

I will check out the site, but I'm not going to promise I'll sign up at this point. Yes, I do submit to a search to get on an airplane, but that's only because I don't want to spend a month sailing across the ocean--and they do searches on the assumption that people *aren't* ethical.

People tend to fulfill your expectations of them. My grandfather never once locked his door or his car, and when my aunt objected he said, "If this is a place where I have to lock my door to be safe, I don't want to live here." If blogs have become places where I have to BOLO for unethical behavior, then why do I do want to read them?

Mom101 said...

Amy, as one of the bloggers who originated Blog With Integrity, I am absolutely in love with this post and your description of your personal reasons for signing.

And if others are more comfortable posting their own personal code of ethics, we think that's awesome too. It's just about having enough respect for our readers and the community that we are willing to share our standards and try to live up to them.

Thank you so much for your support.

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