>There’s a rumble happening over a new Federal Trade Commission regulation that says bloggers who post reviews of books or products must include a notice if they received those books or products for free. It violates First Amendment rights, say some. Others are just putting a blanket notice on their blogs that says they do receive some free copies for review purposes but that does not affect what they write. For me, the only reviews I’m writing these days are for my newsletter, and I usually review books I bought or got at the library. I did receive a review copy recently, and I disclosed that fact.
I don’t think saying you got something for free is a problem. But then I think about newspaper book review sections, and they never mention that most of the books reviewed are sent by the publishers or the authors as free review copies. Why apply such a rule to blogs and not newspapers?
Other freebies can get you into trouble. Travel writers are often offered free trips. Most higher-level publications will not consider articles based on these freebies, but some writing publications advise writers to take the free trips and all the goodies you can get.
In my days as an on-staff reporter for community newspapers, I never got anything expensive, but I did receive my share of tote bags, T-shirts, zucchini and the occasional ticket to a show. Sometimes I received a gift after an article came out: flowers, candy, coffee mugs. Do these things influence a writer’s attitude? I’d like to say no, but we’re all human. If someone gives you something nice, you think favorably of them and you may, consciously or not, lean toward writing positive things about them–or putting their news in the paper the next time they call.
Most big metro papers don’t allow their staff writers to accept anything. But they do get those books to review. CDs and DVDs, too. It’s hard to draw the line. We all have friends, feelings and favorites. Is perfect impartiality even possible?
What do you think?