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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Blogging, ethics and payola - what is OK?


As beer blogging matures as a medium there are an increasing number of discussions on what constitutes ethical blogging.  Is it OK to write about a brewery's beers if they've taken you on a tour or sent you free product? Or if you've done some kind of consultancy for them?

I'll come back to these in a minute - different bloggers have different points of view, and there are many shades of grey.

But I've recently been approached and asked to participate in one activity that, by any standards, is not OK at all.  It's ethically wrong.  In fact, it is probably illegal.

Two weeks ago, I received an email from a man called Barry Sonders who works for an agency called Translation, some kind of PR/communications agency based in New York.  Barry's email read as follows:

Hey Pete, 

I'm working with a beer brand that is looking to "seed" some stories
on blogs like yours about a new beer that is being released. 

I was wondering what the cost would be for me if I wanted to seed
1 story a week for a month. Basically, what I mean by seeding is 
that you'd blog or someone would write something saying... "I heard this
beer is X% alcohol content, etc"... 

Let me know if this is something you'd be interested in doing and again, 
if so, what is the price tag associated with that. 

Thanks! 

Barry

Now there was no way I was ever going to agree to this, and I immediately decided to write this blog post about it.   But before I did so, I wanted to be better informed.  Firstly, I wrote back to Barry to see if I could find out what brand was trying to persuade me to sacrifice my integrity in this fashion:


Hi Barry, 

It kind of depends on the brand, to be honest.  Are you able to reveal which beer or brewer?

Pete

Barry, seemingly, could not be drawn that easily:

To be honest, I can't right now. It's a major brand, definitely not in the craft beer arena
or of a mass audience, middle america appeal. 

However, there was a link to Translation's website at the bottom of his email.  I followed this link, and found a client list that included Coors among a list of reputable companies such as P&G and Johnson & Johnson.

So I contacted Kristy at MolsonCoors UK, who immediately replied that she was 'appalled' by this proposal, and contacted MillerCoors in the US (Coors is in a different JV over there) to see if this was something they knew about.  She got this reply from Pete Marino at MillerCoors HQ:

This has nothing to do with MillerCoors or any of our brands.  Translation does not do any work for MillerCoors, nor have they ever. They did at one time work for legacy Coors Brewing Company and they have the Coors logo on their website under the title “brands they have influenced…”. This doesn’t mean those brands are active clients and I can assure you we don’'t work with Translation.  I am not sure who they are representing here, but... we don’t have any association with Barry or Translation and we do not condone this behavior.  

Further down the email trail between Coors people, someone suggests the whole thing might be a hoax, as there are certainly no plans for a new US beer launch by MillerCoors at the moment.

I wanted to make all this very clear before moving on, because this is serious shit, and it's important to state that whichever brand it is, it's nothing to do with MolsonCoors or MillerCoors, who object to such practices on both legal and ethical grounds.  (I only mention this in detail because if you Google Translation's website, you would think it was Coors).

Personally, whatever your views on free beer, hospitality etc (and I will come back to that) what's happening here is that I am being offered money to blog views and opinions about a beer as if they are my own, when they are not.  By taking money it becomes advertising, and I am being asked to present it as though it is not advertising - clearly misleading my readers, and being dishonest in my writing.

I would never do that, for three reasons.  One - integrity - I have some.  Two - career practicality - if I did this, and someone found out that I'd done it, no one would ever trust anything I wrote ever again. My writing career would be over.  And three - it is probably illegal.  It certainly breaks any general journalistic and blogging standards of behaviour.

To get a clearer picture on this last point, I contacted both the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Advertising Standards Authority.

The NUJ admitted that it's still early days for standards in blogging but the rules generally - and there's no reason why they shouldn't cover blogging - are very clear.  Writing paid for by a brand should be clearly identifiable as advertising or an advertising feature so the reader understands that it's not under editorial control. The NUJ’s code makes it clear that payments, threats or other inducements should not affect what you write.  Chris Frost, Chair of the NUJ Ethics Council, said:

“I’m shocked to hear that a company is trying to bribe a blogger who’s a member of the NUJ to write material that is not necessarily his honest opinion. Whether a journalist is a blogger or works in more traditional media, trust in what they write is central and the NUJ does all it can to protect that with our code of conduct.”

The ASA took a little longer to respond, but I got their reply yesterday.  There's a new code, recently extended to cover online advertising.  Here's what they had to say about it:

In short, yes, this practice would represent a breach of the CAP Code (marketing communications must make it clear that they are so)... we know that the Office of Fair Trading are also interested in looking into this area, as this type of practice represents a serious breach of consumer legislation.

This last point relates back to a test case last year in which the OFT investigated a company called Handpicked Media who were paying bloggers to write for them.  The company was co-operative with the investigation, but it was judged that their activities may be operating in breach of the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, and was engaging in unfair commercial practices.  There will be more test cases to establish whether that 'may' actually is an 'is' or not.

But either way, whether this turns out to be technically legal or not, it's morally and ethically wrong.  The whole point about blogging is that it is a subjective medium, that writers write from interest and passion.  I do write paid for commercial stuff, but I write it in a very different style than I blog, and it's always very clear that I am doing so.  I have never taken a penny from anyone for anything on this blog.  If other people, who don't get as much paid writing as I do, choose to take money for paid-for ads on their blog that's fine - so long as it's very clear that this is advertising.  But what Barry and his agency is suggesting undermines the whole principle and foundation of blogging.

So is this the same as accepting free booze or hospitality from brewers?  There are different views on this, but I don't think it is the same at all.  Fiona Beckett wrote an article for the Guardian recently about accepting payment for wine reviews, and much of the ensuing discussion was about free samples rather than payment.  

I get sent free beer all the time, and it comes down to one's own personal ethics.  I've got so much beer, I'm constantly trying to give it away before it goes stale.  If someone sends me free beer and I like it, I'll say so.  If I don't like it, I probably won't say anything unless the brewer is really insistent.  But I certainly won't say I like a beer just because someone has sent me some for free.  


Hilariously, earlier this year someone sent me a bottle of a very well-known beer brand, and seemed to think that, having done so, I would of course be including this brand in my Publican's Morning Advertiser rundown of my fifty favourite UK beers.  Needless to say, it wasn't there and never will be. 

It's trickier with trips/hospitality.  If someone takes you on an all-expenses-paid trip around Belgium, it's kind of expected that you'll use the experience to write a piece.  It doesn't mean you have to write aglowing report of every beer if you didn't really like it.  But if someone shows you a good time, you're more likely to feel warm towards them - that's human nature.  I'd like to think that a combination of full disclosure and personal integrity should mean you avoid saying things you don't really believe and misleading your readers.

As for consultancy - I do some of that.  But I always tell brewers that while I'm working for them, I won't be writing about them, and I won't be promoting the work we've done together from a journalistic point of view.  If I ever do write about it - like I did with the launch of Martson's Fast Cask - I will do so with full disclosure of my relationship, so readers can make up their own minds as to whether they can trust what I'm saying or not.

I know there are some bloggers who would see my standards as too lax, and others who would read this post and say, 'What's the fuss about?  If you can get free stuff, take it'.  I'm happy to agree to disagree with both, and am not really interested in attacking either.

But I would hope everyone, on every side, would see that taking payment in return for lying to your readers goes against everything that beer blogging is about.  


I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been approached by Translation.  If you have too, I hope you're not tempted - you just might end up being the next legal test case.

36 comments:

Meer For Beer said...

Academic point for me, as I haven't ever been asked to try something for free but as I read alot of blogs I tend to trust the ones who are upfront about where they get their samples from whether it is brought or PR sample. If someone is shifty about where the product has come from and is overly excited by it then it smells of PR perfume and not an independent review and why blogs are important are because they should be independent.

Newspaper and magazine reviews whilst should be independent could be edited by the publication so not to affect their advertising revenue from the product's company. Blogs shouldn't have this issue.

The only 'seed' type beer stories I would be interested in are ones that are from the brewery's or brewer's blog about their own upcoming products.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's one of your rivals trying to catch you out!

Jeff Evans said...

There is a good chance that this is a phishing exercise. The bait is easy money for next to no work and they try to snare you by offering payments by Pay Pal, for instance. Then they send you a seemingly authentic Pay Pal message telling you the money is in and you have enter your Pay Pal password to check the statement. Then you've been had. I've had this tried on me, not for the same thing but relating to website advertising. I followed it through to see where it was leading but was careful enough not to get suckered.

Pub Diaries said...

I think you hit the mail in the head when you say it's about integrity. My blogging efforts are sporadic which sees me yoyo up an down on wikio ratings and pageviews. I still however get frankly bizarre offers. Like the US company that wanted to write articles about bar stools and pay me to publish. I'd like to earn through writing, blogging etc but it's not why I do it. I think they often confuse the enthusiast with the profiteer and also underestimate blog readers in thinking that they wont spot blatant seeding.

Tandleman said...

Nothing to disagree with there at all Pete and as someone who rarely gets approached by anyone about anything, my blog will remain fearlessly honest, will never take advertising, but will of course accept freebies on the same basis as you. That is "Expect nothing in return" really. They do though, on occasion, provide subject matter, but then they must take the rough with the smooth.

Perhaps to some "offerers", some bloggers may be perceived as more susceptible to persuasion than others, whether that is so or not, but that's human nature.

There are indeed many shades of grey, but most, I guess, know right from wrong and as long as you do - as one does - there shouldn't be a big issue.

Jessica Harvey said...

Well said, Pete.

Cooking Lager said...

I would suggest that if ever you are asked to do something disreputable for money that you reply "That cooking lager would do it, he's as corrupt as fook. He'll probably do it for a can of Skol"

That way you stay happy, and I get some free Skol.

The Beer Nut said...

I think "astroturfing" is the correct term for it. And I'm fairly sure it's illegal under consumer protection laws, as the NUJ said.

Like Meer For Beer I'd like to think I can smell PR perfume a mile off.

Simon O'Hare said...

Sounds like this might've been some kind of hoax, but still an interesting post - like you say, in this kind of thing there are things like this that are clearly right & wrong, and there are also tricky shades of grey.

Did you see George Monbiot has decided to disclose ALL of his sources of income and any gifts that he receives? Impressive stuff, although perhaps with the caveat that it's maybe easier to take this kind of approach when you've become well-established.

Wine writers Tim Atkin and Jamie Goode recently discussed this issue on twitter - Atkin said he believes that no respected wine writer should ever write for a supermarket magazine, as for him that oversteps the mark. Goode said he agreed, but he couldn't blame up-and-coming writers for taking the work.

Again on twitter, a few months back Jay Rayner took a black & white stance about food bloggers not paying for their review meals, saying that if they get a free feed it means they can't be fully objective (I paraphrase but think that was the basic gist).

Again in theory, of course he's right - in an ideal world. But easy to say when you're paid well by a national paper, and you take other paid gigs because you want the extra cash rather than need it.

Bloggers on the other hand might be within their rights to argue critics like Jay who are also TV celebrities are so recognisable when they enter a restaurant - and they're also likely to know the chefs & restaurateurs etc - so how does that affect the authenticity of their experiences, and how much they enjoy their meals?

No reason whatsoever to think that Rayner, who seems a decent bloke, isn't anything other than totally ethical by the way, just saying all human beings are affected by context when their senses are evoked. Shades of grey.

You're relying on the personal integrity of the critic/blogger to be as fair as possible. And you're just hoping your favourite critic isn't unmasked Hari-style... I was certainly dispirited when other journalists defended Hari's actions (nice for them to support him as a friend, but the alarm bells rang once they started trying to downplay what he'd done).

Here's the link to that George Monbiot blogpost about his earnings & interests:
http://www.monbiot.com/registry-of-interests/

Apologies for the lengthy comment!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I stopped reading most bloggers blogs when every single one of seemed to mention Brewdog and how dogtastic they were. It all got a bit boring but it really took the biscuit when a bunch of you went and brewed there and then started heavily promoting the beer you had brewed on your blogs. Not sure where that sits with your ethics but it certainly left a nasty taste in my mouth when it comes to self promoting bloggers.And why "anonymous"? Well, I'm a brewer, and as yet haven'nt lined any of your pockets with free samples/tours/ready made stories etc. and am somewhat concerned that your combined ire could do me some damage.

Des de Moor said...

I do get free beer -- like Pete more than I can drink, and I'm about to organise another free tasting to get rid of it all -- but never on the basis that I will write something favourable about it. I also write about plenty of beers I paid for, both in my blog and in print. As a working writer, the big advantage of getting beer sent to you is that it's convenient as well as being free -- otherwise to cover the range of beers I do, I'd have to spend an awful lot of time and money on countrywide and international shopping trips.

Like Pete and many others I tend simply to say nothing about beers I feel negative about -- which some bloggers also insist is unethical.

On Jay Rayner's point about food blogging, there's a particular issue with restaurants, in that if you're getting a free meal, then they know who you are and you can't trust that the food and service you get are equivalent to what the average paying punter can expect. To write an honest and useful restaurant review you need to be a "mystery shopper". It's much less easy for them to flatter a known reviewer in a pub as they're hardly going to change the barrel before they serve you, but even so I made a point of initially going in unannounced and buying a half pint as an ordinary member of the public in the majority of pubs in my book.

Alan said...

I get ad revenue (not enough anymore... thanks Twitter) but beer has paid for itself for 4/5 years. But the ads are not beer related so much as SEO traffic generation for, oddly, insurance law firms as much as anything. I also do not get as many samples as I should but I do get them.

We talked a lot about this back in 2008 and we came to a distinction between journalist and writer which I think is still useful. If I am just writing about stuff, subjectively opining, that is one thing. But if I am presenting myself as objective and reliable I do have concerns about junkets, collaborative brewing, consulting, etc. I don't think you can be a journalist and do that in beer anymore than you can as a political or business journalist.

Yet this is a pleasure trade. Can you really write about good beer without getting all chatty in the corner of a fest with a group of obsessives who are a mix of brewer, PR and drinker? Which leads me to understand that there actually no any beer journalists, that this is some sort of false ideal that editors and ethical finger pointers would create for us. I am happy to be a writer.

Your example, that's for me just a stunned PR stunt not worth following up upon. While it triggered this thought, it was something that would be caught in my spam filter as often as not. I write online in part for interest but also for money. I publish my own online journals. Why wouldn't income be a legitimate part of that? The kids need shoes.

PivnĂ­ Filosof said...

Fully agree. It's all about being open and honest. You are reviewing a free sample, say so. You got treated at a pub/restaurant/brewery, say so. I don't think there is anything wrong or unethical with that.

And I've been approached many times by people offering me money to do some "guest blogging", or stuff like that. I've always told that I'm OK if they want to place an advertising link, but that I'm not going to let anyone other than myself generate contents for my blog.

Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers said...

Great post. Thanks for not duping us - not that we think you would ;)

Velky Al said...

I avoid paid advertising on Fuggled entirely.

That is one of the reasons why I very rarely write about beers from Starr Hill Brewing as I work in their tasting room from time to time, and also avoid rating them on Ratebeer - as far as I am concerned, I want to avoid being accused of praising beers simply because I get paid a wage by the company making them.

I have been offered the opportunity to advertise companies through the blog, but they were shady characters using respected bloggers as references and when I checked them out, the bloggers in question had told them to sod off.

Generally I feel uncomfortable with paid advertising on Fuggled, I do it for the love of beer, not as a way to make some extra cash.

Ian Garrett said...

it's good to see that there appears to be common ground regarding being paid to promote a beer in the manner that Pete has described. It would certainly be stepping over the line from being an independent reviewer/blogger to being a company lackey.
However I've seen no mention of the practice of writing to Breweries and soliciting free samples in return for a review/mention in a blog. A couple of brewers have told me they get these requests regularly. This practice also calls into question the reviewer/bloggers independence.

Alan said...

If I write some brewer and ask for a sample, where is the issue. I might identify that the beer reached me in that way but, again, pretending that a blogger or any beer writer is likely to live a solitary life without associating with brewers, appearing at fests organized by trade or drinkers associations, never taking a fee for a pairings dinner is all a bit strange. What did beer blogging get purer than Olympic sport circa 1900? Who decided that this was the field for only millionaire playboys with no need for income?

Greg said...

@Ian, I have heard that bloggers do that as well, and it always made me queasy to think of it. I suppose I would find it okay, though, as long as the blogger was upfront about how he or she got the beer and whether it was actually any good. Sooner or later, it is up to readers to make an informed choice about how much they trust their writers.

James Allen, Brewhouse said...

As a PR with a social media bent I've done a fair amount of "blogger outreach", as they'd call it in the States, but would never stoop this low. I've learned that you have to be very careful with bloggers - if the blogger doesn't like your approach, they often blog about it, as you've done here Pete.

Unfortunately some bloggers can be bought, just as some journalists can be bought. I make sure I only work with the ones who think the concept is totally abhorrent.

I hope Barry from Translation reads your post! Something tells me he won't comment...

Lisa said...

All very interesting points, but I must admit I'm fascinated by the original pitch - whether it turns out to be a hoax or something (apparently not so) legitimately on the horizon, I would be very curious to hear if this particular PR person follows up, or if he contacts anyone else.

Do post more about it if so!

Tim said...

I'm reminded of the final story of "A Visit from the Goon Squad" where the character is making evaluations of whose opinions / influence can be bought.

Mario (Brewed for Thought) said...

What a great topic, well, for beer writers/bloggers at least. For the readers, let's just say they probably don't care too much about our free beer and the moral and ethical dilemmas it brings about.

I'm happy to hear Pete's stance falls in line with my own. Who knew I had such high standards.

As for the source of beer, dinners, etc. I have a disclaimer at the bottom of my site

"Please assume all events, products, beers, meals, etc. shown on Brewed For Thought were provided by the brewer, host, manufacturer, etc. Thank you."

Explaining the source of a beer, how you got access to an event or why you chose to be where you were that day can be incredibly boring and of no interest to the reader. If we have to explain ourselves every time we don't pay for something then we'd never get to the point, which is to talk about the beer.

Does giving someone something for free automatically earn it a good review? Maybe the first time you receive something for free, but when that's the business you're in free no longer influences your opinion.

The seed planted by this PR company was definitely unethical, but I don't think samples or freebies of other sorts compare.

Jeff Alworth said...

In the US, it appears to be the law that you have to indicate in blog reviews whether you received the product from the company. (There was apparently a cottage industry of bloggers setting up review sites in order to get freebies.) At first I chafed at the idea--a beer is so cheap, and I drink enough of it already that it is hard to keep straight whether I bought it or the brewery sent it.

But as I've gotten into the habit of mentioning when the beer came from the brewery, I've found I like the added credibility it gives my reviews. The most important possession of writers and bloggers (particularly the latter) is their credibility. Transparency enhances that; secrecy damages it. So, best to cop to your source from the start.

As far as pay-for-review goes, I agree it's abhorrent. Unless, of course, the price were right...

(I kid, I kid!)

Joe Stange said...

Question for my friends and colleagues in the UK: Do you think journalistic ethics are different there than in North America?

My journalistic training was in the U.S. and I refrain from taking free beer in the mail or sponsored junkets. I've never been asked to do a collaboration brew, but I guess I would have to refuse. Meanwhile colleagues who I continue to respect -- in the UK but also a few in the US -- have no problem with those things.

Usually I attribute it to a cultural difference, but I'd be interested to hear other thoughts.

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

like other beerwriters I get free beer and write about it on the blog on its merits (or don’t if it’s awful) — the beer is if it is good will then feature in articles at some stage; however, ethically as a regular pub reviewer for the Telegraph I feel it is also really important that I never tell a pub I am reviewing it otherwise like a restaurant reviewer how do I know that the boat hasn’t been pushed out for me?

Birkonian said...

You've shamed me into full disclosure so here's a list of all the payments and inducements I've received.



er, that's it.

Anonymous said...

Can I request that you 'seed' some stories about my sexual prowess to any women you find in bars?

Publican Sam said...

Nice piece Pete, the problem had not occurred to me before reading this blog.

I always assumed that there was a certain amount of integrity implicit in blogging and having read a fair few blogs I cannot see much evidence of "product placement" out there.

If this is the start of a trend to try and influence impartial reporting then at least ASA etc are on the ball.

Whilst the legality etc will be clear cut, as with much in life what is legal is not always moral, for instance should one take down Google Ads if it helps keep a website that others find useful free of charge to use? Should paid for banners be removed for the same reason?

As long as the content is of quality I think most readers are able to discern between an advertising piece and a genuine journalistic article.

The Hearty Goodfellow said...

I'm absolutely stunned at how many top beer bloggers can be found here freely admitting that they don't write about a beer if it's bad.

They therefore only write about the good free beers which they receive.

How does this serve our readers?

If we take a bullet, shouldn't we at least warn the oncoming crowd?



(BTY - Tremendous piece, Pete. And I suspect it was a malicious trap.)

David Mayhall (All Gates Brewery) said...

Well said Pete, I entirely agree with you. I wrote about the same thing back in May 2011 but also with reference to Twitter and 'Flogging'. In my humble opinion as I said then it is a very fine line but my perception is that these lines/boundaries in the beer tweeting and blogging world as with all worlds are moving. http://allgatesbrewery.com/allgates-brewery-blog/2011/05/when-is-a-tweet-not-a-tweet/#more-2332

Leigh said...

A nice piece, Pete, and pretty much sums up how I feel/approach the situation. I get loads of offers for this sort of thing, but very rarely take them up on it. It's just a massively shady area, and I don't want anything to do with it. On the occasions I have accepted stuff through the post, I always give disclosure and hope -fingers crossed - that the readers trust my judgement. I will always promote Real Ale no matter what, and I hope people get that. I can certainly tell the bloggers that just plug free offers relentlessly - and I must say I don't take much truck in what they say.

Stono said...

its an interesting point, clearly being paid to seed stories is bad (Im not a lawyer so cant debate the legality), but as the astroturfing article shows I think it goes on far more often than we might realise,

as to the being sent free stuff to review, Im more divided on that personally, I think it can be problematic and Im not always comfortable with how that review collateral can be used by the brewery sending the stuff as free advertising for their product (though thats part of the deal obviously), or that it often seems quite selective and it then pushes the reviewer into the realms of that beloved MSM phrase "scientists say...". So I feel you can start to lose objectivity that way, independent blogs should always strive to maintain there independence at all times.

certainly Im happier being able to say when stuff is good and when stuff is bad, knowing I might not be appreciated for pointing out the bad stuff, but the good stuff then carries more weight IMO and as Ive paid for it in the same way as a normal punter, who after all are the main audience reading and responding to the review, will have paid for it, or has access to, I feel Im on the same level and able to review it that way.

whereas its difficult not to feel if someone has sent you that extra special one off beer to try, or has done some amazing special one off favour for you, that maybe you owe them in some way by being a touch more generous in a review or feel its harder to pick faults and so choose to ignore things they are doing wrong.

but I recognise thats more a personal choice issue, some people are ok with it (Im not suggesting people who review free stuff can be bought off that way btw), Im just one of those thats not comfortable with it :)

Pete Brown said...

Lots of good points here.

Firstly, I'm glad there's such a consensus around the cash-for-words thing. It's wrong. It'd probably illegal. And Jeff et al, suspecting it's a hoax - I'm afraid the company Barry works for is very real. I've also been contacted by people who've had a similar approaches for a PR agency that works for Tesco. When the blogger refused the offer, the PR company genuinely could not see what the problem was.

Heart Goodfellow raises a really interesting challenge to those of us who tend not to blog reviews of poor beers. I think it's a very valid point. I have my reasons for not wanting to blog bad beers, one of which is that I don't do that many beer reviews anyway (you're much better going to Rate Beer or Beer Advocate than my blog if that's what you're looking for). But the main point is that blogging is personal and subjective - which I believe is where I started. It's a thorny one. I'm a blogger, and no one can tell me what to do on my blog - I can write, or not write, about whatever I want. No one is paying me, no one is controlling me. But on the other hand, the reason people read my blog instead of another beer blog is that I am also a professional beer writer, generally regarded as an authority on the subject. I guess - and please correct me if I'm getting up my own ares about this - that me and people like Jeff Evans, Tierney-Jones, Young Dredge and Melissa Cole are held to a higher standard than the purely hobbyist blogger. We get sent the free stuff, get invited to breweries etc, and people look to us for definitive views. Do we have an obligation to post objectively in a more newsworthy style? I tend to switch how it suits me, expecting people to accept that I can be serious and authoritative in one post, and subjective and personal in the next. Perhaps this is becoming harder to do.

Another dilemma is that the beer world is. by its very nature,a sociable world. You spend time with brewers, bloggers, beer fans both on and off duty, and some become friends. Your objectivity is totally compromised. There are brewers I'm more likely to write about because I've been for a curry with them, genuinely love their beer, and find that we share a similar world view, spark off each other and make each other laugh. This is not them giving me hospitality - it's me being human, and thinking, "I like you more than I like them'. Going back to my last point, If I'm being subjective and offering purely personal views, what's the problem with that? If I'm positioning myself as an authoritative voice in beer though, should I attempt to put personal preferences to one side? Possibly I should, but then it become a job - and one that I'm not being paid to do.

Oh, I don't bloody know. Thanks for your interest in the topic though.

Eddie86 said...

Pete, I think you've hit the most important nail on the head which is being honest with the reader from the start.

By doing that you develop a relationship with the reader which is entirely trustworthy. I'm glad to hear you turned it down because I'd really be disappointed to learn you didn't...

And yes, as 'authorities on beer' I believe you lot do have standards to uphold - so far it seems you all are!

K. E. Dolloff said...

Very interesting. I'm a new beer blogger and haven't even given any thought yet to the ethics of blogging, particularly where I work in the beer industry. Definitely food for thought, since I personally don't want my integrity questioned if I write about the brewery I work at. For me it's "writing what I know" as I'm relatively new at this and it was working in the beer industry that has made me fascinated. Definitely things for me to chew over.

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