I’ve been wondering—are the ethical requirements really the same for a personal blog as they are for a magazine? I’ve accepted a camera on extended loan lately for the the first time in my career, too. That is something that is common enough industry-wide, but that I’ve never done before myself. A new thing.
And then there are junkets. Junkets are a common perk in business. Once, when I was an editor, I was offered a particularly dazzling one. To publicize a name-change, a manufacturer offered a flight to Paris for a big dinner at a fancy restaurant—I forget which one, now, but my memory is that the name was world-famous—and then on to a Mediterranean country for a corporate presentation followed by three days at an idyllic resort. Boy, was I ever tempted. I really, really wanted to go. Turned it down.
I count the ethical lapse in product reviews as one of the many small cuts that contribute to the overall demise of magazines as authoritative, trusted, must-read sources of information. The rise of product reviews as a great source of advertising income for magazines ultimately led to the advertisers controlling the outcome of the reviews (along with all kinds of content you wouldn’t suspect they would have influence over). It’s a double edged sword because you either keep the advertising and lose reader trust or you lose the advertising and keep your readers happy. Everyone has tried to have it both ways for too long.
It would be sad to see the only place where unvarnished reviews exist is at the online point of sale because you really have to wade through a lot of comments from people with different agendas and of course the PR and marketing are working the back channels here as well. Ideally I think that just as Mike Johnston has done here trusted reviewers will emerge as they post and continually update a code of ethics of some sort and give disclosures within the reviews they write.