Green-living expert Sara Snow wrote last week about “A Part of Something Big,” a program that sells fair-trade and environmentally-friendly items through school fundraising. In her entry, she discussed products sold such as soaps made by women in a Chicago substance abuse home, and coffee from companies who farm without slashing forests.
She tags blog entries like this one with short phrases that are relevant to the entry, and the tags are used to sort the entries into topical categories. Her users can comment on the blog entries, opening up conversation with the television host and Fitness Magazine contributor.
Certainly, numerous natural-green-earth-friendly companies are shipping their products to Snow with the hope that she will recommend their products to her followers. Such requests for endorsements are common for popular blogs.
In fact, the Federal Trade Commission updated its rules concerning endorsements in Oct. 2009 to address blog-related advertising.
An FTC press release states that, “the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”
The blogosphere is inhabited by numerous content-creators, like Snow, whose entries are sources of news, entertainment and recommendations for their followers.
The New York Times publishes more than 20 blogs on its Web site and the Wall Street Journal has many of its own. But many blogs are not affiliated with journalistic institutions or celebrity status.
Web sites such as blogger.com and wordpress.org provide free blogging platforms to users, which make the creation of blogs accessible and convenient. Nearly anyone can publish his or her thoughts on the Internet.
Bloggers are not necessarily trained to know laws about libel, copyright infringement and product-promotion. The ethics of journalism are not always followed or understood.
“I really believe that everyone needs an editor, and that can be a drawback to a blog,” said Carrie Buchanan, an assistant professor in the Tim Russert Department of Communications and Theatre Arts.
Many bloggers do not have access to an editor. There is often no fact-checker sifting through blog entries for truth and accuracy.
Even blogs that are associated with credible organizations could be posted before an editor has a chance to check for errors, according to Buchanan.
She said, “We have to be ever-vigilant, even if reading a respectable blog.”
While the ethical and legal issues are being worked out, the blogosphere remains active and full of contributors.
“Some students are natural bloggers and could make a living this way,” said Buchanan, who incorporates blogging into her journalism classes at JCU.
Buchanan said that blogs are less formal and briefer than traditional news articles, and the interactivity – the ability to provide links and hear back from readers – is very helpful.