Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.
But the strategy raises questions about what bloggers, who pride themselves on independence, should disclose to readers. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has been forthright with bloggers about the origins of its communications, and the company and its public relations firm, Edelman, say they do not compensate the bloggers.
And the bloggers involved here are either too dumb to the notions of plaigarizing:
But some bloggers have posted information from Wal-Mart, at times word for word, without revealing where it came from.
Or too stupidly egotistical to know the difference between a press release that bunches of people get, and what might be considered a confidential or exclusive source:
John McAdams, a political science professor at Marquette University who runs the Marquette Warrior blog, recently posted three links about union activity in the same order as he received them from Mr. Manson (the "blogger" who's an account exec for W-M). Mr. McAdams acknowledged that he worked from Wal-Mart's links and that he did not disclose his contact with Mr. Manson.
"I usually do not reveal where I get a tip or a lead on a story," he said, adding that journalists often do not disclose where they get ideas for stories either.
That last quote is inaine in many ways: first, if you get a tip or a lead, give the person, or persons credit for it, esp. if it's another blogger. That's not just transparency, but it's good blog relations. Further, what difference does it make if you reveal the source--esp. if you reveal it in a hyperlink? Get real! This ain't Watergate, or Rathergate, or the whole thing on the Dubai port deal or the leaked Katrina tapes....
This is freaking P/R for Wal-Mart, folks! Get a grip!
All I can say to Mr. McAdams is reign in your ego--put it aside, give the people who give you tips credit and learn to intuit a piece of crafty p/r.
If there is one thing that will kill political bloggers, it's big fat egos that make them think they're the Second Coming of Matt Drudge. Oh, puh-leeze!
And in this quote, from another fool who got the Wal-Mart stuff:
Asked in a telephone interview about the resemblance of his postings to Mr. Manson's, Mr. Pickrell said: "I probably cut and paste a little bit and I should not have," adding that "I try to write my posting in my own words."
Just use quotes, idiot! Nobody's going to get mad at you, or drum you out of the Bloggers Union if you use quotes! and, if you do, please provide a hyperlink to the original story somewhere in your blog...
Glenn Reynolds said it best:
"If I reprint something, I say where it came from. A blog is about your voice, it seems to me, not somebody else's."(Reynolds also noted this is a "basic tenent" in the blogosphere...acutally, it's basic common sense.)
What we are often doing in blogging is writing short essays. Kind of like in college. So, if you're writing an essay, and you want to use information someone gave you, you have to reference that information. This is Comp 101. Following suit, this is Blogging 101.
And, heck, even if your essay is, perhaps, a piece that's like a newspaper article, where you have information you received from another source, isn't it the right journalistic thing to mention that source?? And if it's something that will "blow the lid" off something else, shouldn't you look up or ask someone how to deal with it if you're unsure??
As I said, all we got here is a bunch of Wal-Mart propaganda, and these fools think they're dealing in the bigtime. All a bunch of ego hurting the rest of us...
Even if you happen to get something Big Time, ask the person if they want to be "on the record" or off. Knowing that you are not a journalist in the same sense as someone working for a newspaper--in that you don't have the organized structure to support what you are doing, or an editor to ask what to do in the situation-- ask the on/off record question. If the person you are speaking with says he/she wants it "off the record," then simply respect that person's wishes. Once again, put your bloddy blog ego aside. Whatever scoop you think you're getting by publishing something someone told you "off the record" won't earn you any brownie points in the hallowed halls you might be trying to break into with your blogging.
And word gets around. You let "off the record" comments leak out, you certainly won't get anyone important to talk to you. You won't be trusted.
Trust, quite frankly, is all you got out here when you're "just a blogger." Trust is also something that has to be earned. When you earn it, it's precious. BigShots' trust is what just might give you cred somewhere down the pike...
So, if BigShots end up okay-ing what they said or gave to you for "on the record"--quote the person, reference them, link to their blog or website or whatever. Make sure you've got their words right. Don't be a jerk about it and claim it as your own when it ain't--because when it comes down to it, you're really NOT in the "journalistic profession" in the proper sense, and you could end up shooting yourself somewhere other than your foot...
When it's hare enough to get cred out here in the blogosphere, we don't need big-ego fools like the ones mentioned above getting all the headlines and making the rest of us look bad.
Keywords: Trust and transparency. If you want cred, and you want to be real, lean 'em and use 'em. The Wal-Mar shills, apparently, forgot 'em.
Journalism, citizen journalism, media, Blogging, Blog, Blogs, Weblogs