So where do blog junkets fall in this K Street world?

Comments

22 comments posted
Don't fall prey to the long tradition in the left of ...

shooting down their own due to money. Seriously.

I will address your concerns at great lenght at culturekitchen. In this particular case Holland.com have not stipulated that the blogger is getting paid to write anything. The terms are clear at

www.bloggersinamsterdam.com

Now, I am one who is moving from just blogging to publishing. My focus is to make my blogging sustainable. I have no reason to believe these kinds of sposorships have to work any different than scholarships, fellowships or research grants. I will be experiment with this more this year as I look for ways to make blogging not just sustainable for myself but my collaborators and other bloggers in my networks as well.

Best,

lizasabater

Culture + Politics + Technology

www.culturekitchen.com

New York grassroots news and activism

www.dailygotham.com

Personal Blog

www.lizasabater.com

Feminist Bloggers Network

www.blogsheroes.com

liza's picture
Posted by liza on 26 January 2006 - 2:27pm
I wonder if it's so simple

Am I shooting anybody? Seriously?

I find it hard to see an expenses-paid vacation as a scholarship. And just because it's lefty bloggers doing it doesn't mean that if there's a question, it should be addressed by other so-called lefties. That's part of transparency, and shutting down the discussion won't make the question go away.

The question I believe is legitimate. Unfortunately I don't think my echoing the question will win me any friends among this Holland-bound roster. Already I've taken heat for disagreeing with the Democratic Party line. But cries of "circular firing squad" don't have much truck with me, because that accusation is built upon the assumption that any disagreement is somehow disloyal or something, and I prefer to leave that kind of thinking to the Bush Administration.

Besides, throwing a scold is not going to make this kind of issue go away. We've seen bloggers -- including lefty bloggers -- throw fits for having advertising pulled and even threaten campaigns, and it's been a total embarrassment, and affected the credibility of all of us, to some extent.

I think it's fortunate that this issue is coming up in this case involving such a relatively harmless promoter. I don't anticipate too many heated accusations of conflict of interest over blogs discussing Holland's tourism policies, for example. So there's an opportunity here to address these kinds of questions without an overlay of heavy partisan politics.

But it seems to me that this is a junket all the same, and Holand.com's purpose is to get time with you so they can advance their agenda. And whether you're sitting in a hot tub in Amsterdam or playing golf in Scotland, the question remains.

Would you accept a junket sponsored by an oil company? If not, why not. If so, don't you think that would raise questions as to what you're really writing about?

I realize that junkets like these happen all the time for private citizens being wooed by real estate developers. But those are companies looking for buyers, which is a totally different situation than what we are looking at here, with companies seeking to influence bloggers' coverage. And if you don't believe that's what they're after, just because they don't obligate you to it, then I'd like to ask why they're being so generous. Maybe they're just looking for a write-off?

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 26 January 2006 - 3:16pm
Gotta agree this smells.

It isn't about the money or even the perks ....but let's be real... they want something. I believe in that old saying "Nothing for nothing is nothing".

No one these days is naive to believe that such a junket is without strings attached... of COURSE THERE ARE STRINGS ATTACHED. This is exactly how the MSM has gotten corrupted and neutered in the first place. Gee have you ever met a drug dealer.... this is the oldest trick in the book. At the beginning they are kind and friendly and even offer the drugs free... that is until you are hooked. Then the tables turn and the addict is selling his soul for another hit.

Look at what happened to Kos.

He started off normalish he was never liberal nor progressive. However, now he is hooked on what ever Kool-Aid they are selling in DC. You could see the stages. At first he called them on their bullshit even made a ranting speech in front of the Dem leadership. But then after helping to raise a half a million dollars he got seated in the back of the room at the Unity dinner. Next thing you know he is dissing NARAL and Hippy Dippies. Still thinking he had an once of independence left he called on a jihad against the DLC... then there was that sad little footnote to a FP diary where he "decides" that even though the intent of the CTG was to take down the DLC they "decided" to just write a chapter about the DLC... but then in the end they "decided" to not mention the DLC at all... can you say crack head...

When they say that DC is a bubble they mean it... there is no oxygen... transformation of those who enter this bubble is astonishing... you can actually see people becoming asphyxiated and watch their personalities radically alter... Armando, Chris and Jerome use to be sane... it is just freaky reading them now... it is like body snachers have invaded their souls.

One thing I noticed in the early days of blogging the perception of the MSM media bubble that reported on the campaigns. That is where the term "Heathers" came from ... they were a bunch of insular mean little shit reporters who seemed more interested in being pampered and being in the "in" crowd that they no longer had the ability to talk to real people outside their clique without a sneer on their face...

I gotta agree this kinda stinks. And yeah if it were offered to me I would probably take it thinking that in my heart of hearts I would not succomb to any temptation. But temptation is built into these packages...because that is what they are meant for. They chip away and chip away... just look at Chris Matthews... he used to be a Dem through and through... now he is just a crack head addicted to the Kool Aid... but he did just buy a multimillion dollar house on Martha's vineyard.

On the positive side... to spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars to "tempt" bloggers means that they are afraid of the impact bloggers have and are starting early to control it... YEAH THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE DOING... IF ANYONE THINKS THAT THEY ARE JUST BEING NICE... I HAVE A BRIDGE IN BROOKLYN I WANT TO SELL TO YOU.

It is interesting that this came up because today I was just thinking at who is going to be the next Rove... and I think it will be Simon Rosenberg... he has the stealth of Ralph Reed,the cunning of Gingrich and the lateral thinking of Rove... too bad he is NOT on our side. He crossed my mind because personally I think he is more dangerous to real progressive and liberal Dems than Rove. Many people point to the fact that he "supported" Dean and this is his gift... he can see an opportunity where others see a problem. The blogosphere was taking off like a stampede of wild buffalo. Al From ... being Al From thought he could just stand in front of it and meet it head on and stop the stampede to the left...WRONG. Whereas, Rosenberg used the old cowboy trick.... he ran to catch up with the herd, then he ran alongside it keeping momentum, soon after he was at the head of the stamepede leading the pack by the nose to where he wanted them to go...to the far right. The forward to the book says it all...

A con man has to again your CONFIDENCE inorder to con you..That is to say... of course it starts off innocent and with a lot of good will but don't be fooled...the bloggers on this trip are being marked for their influence... as bloggers tip toe thru the tulips they should think to themselves... What would Walter Cronkite do? There is no more independent news in the US and many people ARE now depending on blogs for information... please do not let the label blogger stop bloggers from being professional.

This is also how VW broke it's union's hold on employment practices.

First it was prostitutes. Then it was luxury foreign trips. Yesterday, however, the sex scandal at the German car manufacturer Volkswagen deepened when a former manager admitted he had supplied members of the firm's works council not just with female company, but also with Viagra.

Must have been some good viagra...

, VW struck a deal with its staff to make a new sports utility vehicle at its Wolfsburg plant, securing some 1,000 jobs in exchange for pay rates below the norm.

BTW Does anyone know if Kos or the Rappaports owns shares of BlogAds?

postdated's picture
Posted by postdated (not verified) on 26 January 2006 - 5:14pm
The Checkers Speech

Today's word is "junket."

I suppose people who accept "free" vacations are just doing what our Senators and Representatives have been doing for years. And harmless, too. Lobbying, by and large, is benign. No one is actually "buying" votes. Lobbying is simply informing someone else about an issue, first hand - but it gets dicey, if it is over lunch at a swank restaurant, or at an exotic location, or expensive goods are "donated."

Coming out of the publishing industry, I used to watch the ritual where one of our young reviewers, who had the salary of someone working for a small press, had a magnificent, new, high-performance, sports car delivered to the company lot. He would have the vehicle for 48-hours and then it would be "pumpkin time," and he would return it. The idea the manufacturers had was that he would have important information if he ever chose to write a review.

Interestingly, we did not do car reviews, but that didn't keep the motor car manufacturers from trying and from him taking a spin a cool car for 48-hours, every couple weeks.

If a man wanted to take my daughter on an all-expense-paid-no-strings-attached-trip-to-Amsterdam, would I believe how innocent it all was? Perhaps - after all, Amsterdam in February is not that alluring a place.

Two issues in the larger context come to mind, and that has to do with proportion and perception.

Proportion - If the gift is significant, is it a gift? The IRS even has formal guidelines which govern this, though they are quite high, but my employer can't say my salary is their "gift" to me and my "gift" to them is my work, such as it is. I doubt this trip and frills will pierce that legal barrier, but it may test bottom on the moral barrier.

Or as the old joke goes, "if a man gets a calender with a picture of a pretty girl that he can look at all year, that's a gift; if he gets to spend just one evening with that pretty girl? Well, that's something else."

Perception - Being like Caesar's wife. Here the old saying applies, "where there's smoke, there's fire." I think the current administration is so over that top, that the American people are numb to what politicians have done and continue to do. The perception is, "hey, everyone does it and I'm just doing what the next guy does." This is also called "standard industry practice."

I close with a story. It was the first day of class in Corporate Law. The course was taught by the "case method," but before we got to the facts of the case, our professor quoted from the Bible and the quote was about serving two masters and the daunting issues of that. A lawyer might be able to keep two competing clients, and all that, separate in his mind and heart, but the mere appearance of a possible conflict of interest was not worth it.

The moral of the story is not about "having our passports handy," but about have our standards handy, and knowing where we stand.

And if I taking something of high value and I say no strings are attached, I will only be fooling myself.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 2 February 2006 - 10:59am
Groan

What agenda to they want to advance? The tulip mafia's agenda?

Seriously MG.

Today me, tomorrow you .... that is, unless you want to remain anonymous forever. It's your decision and I respect it, but opportunities like this I can't throw your way if you insist in anonymity. Take a cue from Shakes and Professor B. Especially B., she's made it clear to me what she's willing to come out for.

I actually am an altruist. I have said it before and I will say it again, if I were doing this for the money, I'd be running porno sites. That's where's the money, not on writing about politics and raising people's consciousness.

Does this explain why Holland.com wants me to go to Amsterdam?

The political blogosphere is just starting to hit the kinds of opportunities and visibility that our techie counterparts have been enjoying for almost 3 years now. This is the time to get one's shit together if blogging, online publishing and new media development is what you want to have in your future. A year from now is too late.

I have no time for people who want to undermine what could potentially be the roots of a progressive new media network. I have no time for pregnacists or Republicrats running the show. I want to make sure hard-core leftists, feminists and progressives are there from the start.

It's not just me, btw. There are many women bloggers in tech and business at work trying to break the circle and blogjerk men have been holding now for 4 years. Their building businesses to help other women bloggers because they believe it's their duty as feminists.

If you are not tired of seeing guys running the show as "the" blogosphere because they have the money and access and PR behind them, then you're not on the same page as I am. I dont want to give the opportunity for a few frat boys to run the show. I want to be there front and center as a puerto rican black feminist woman, effecting and altering the discourse.

If you don't think that's powerful, then I dont know what is.

To make it more relevant, believe it or not, it's one woman's decision to include me in a blogroll that made all the difference in my blogging life : Beverly Parenti of Feedster was a long-time reader of mine and she decided that because no feminists or women of color had been invited by the DNC to their convention or to be part of their list of official bloggers, she took it upon herself to right that wrong by including my site on the Feedster 2004 election rotation.

It took one woman and one link to my RSS to make a world of difference.

I haven't had a vacation in 11 years. I am going to make sure I enjoy this one. I will be blogging it because it was 20 years ago I first went to Amsterdam. I am going to enjoy it. I will certainly inhale. Then, it's back to work on blogs, kids and most certainly effecting change, one ping at a time.

Culture + Politics + Technology

www.culturekitchen.com

New York grassroots news and activism

www.dailygotham.com

Personal Blog

www.lizasabater.com

Feminist Bloggers Network

www.blogsheroes.com

liza's picture
Posted by liza on 1 February 2006 - 9:29pm
Me tomorrow?

What is this? A hierarchy? Frankly I don't see it. And I don't see how getting a paid vacation makes full-time blogging more viable. Or how holland.com makes political blogging more relevant.

You can look at this junket as validation for your work. But I feel that you either value your own work or you don't. And how you pay for it either goes against who you are and what you stand for or it doesn't. And that's for you to determine for yourself.

But if you fail to even see what kind of issues this all raises, then I feel you are blind to what blogging really is, and the impact it can have on our lives, on politics, on our entire culture. Blogging is part of the media, and the same quesetions apply.

Then again, maybe you're right, and we all have a price and selling out is the way to go and little matters like this don't mean shit because someone who's hungry gets to eat in Amsterdam. And that's fine. Each person decides for him or her self.

But don't get on a high horse and tell me that I'm the bad one for asking the question or refusing to think that if one has certain political views then ethical questions can be dismissed as irrelevant. If you think you're doing the right thing, then that's great. But I refuse to accept that I am in the wrong for asking the question, and if you disagree that's your prerogative.

Have fun and enjoy your vacation. The rest of us will be here when you get back.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 1 February 2006 - 10:01pm
The Lady

doth protest too much, me thinks

postdated's picture
Posted by postdated (not verified) on 2 February 2006 - 3:44am
Blogsheroes is advertising "Women Who Make The World Worse"

Here is EXACTLY what is wrong with blog ads, Liz. I clicked on the "blogsheroes.com" link in your message, under "Feminist Bloggers Network" and I get blasted by a "Gooooogle Ad" for THIS BOOK: Kate O'Beirne's "Women Who Make The World Worse" linking to http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,...

I seriously call bullshit on that.

Ann Bartow's picture
Posted by Ann Bartow (not verified) on 30 January 2006 - 8:31pm
and the ad is still up too!

good call, ann! you hit the nail on the head.

bayprairie's picture
Posted by bayprairie on 2 February 2006 - 4:46am
Feminism as Profitable Business Model?

Obviously propping up the patriarchy pays better than subverting it. As with magazines, radio, and television, there is great, important blog content that I will access and enjoy no matter how appalling the associated ads are, just as I am unwilling to forgo products made under exploitive labor conditions or by companies whose business practices I dislike. I could say I am "unable" to do this, but it would not be impossible; just very very hard. We all draw lines, we are all imperfect. That being said, my tolerance for the hypocrisy of running ads that completely undermine or contradict the messages and purported ethos of the blog itself is very low. There are lots of ways to make money; folks can sell the souls of their blogs if they want to, but they shouldn't expect to wield much in the way of moral authority, at least not as far as I am concerned, and they certainly won't get any support from me.

Ann Bartow's picture
Posted by Ann Bartow (not verified) on 2 February 2006 - 7:43am
Bloggers are not journalists

For the most part, bloggers are not journalists. Some do original reporting, and some claim to but don't. Blogs tend to be commentary, and when you happen to be transparent about who's paying for your "research," there's no need to apologize, I think.

I'd happily have gone on this, and then tried to use it as inspiration for creative non-fiction to sell, apart from my blog. Same with an oil-industry junket. As long as (a) I feel I'm being transparent about my funding and (b) I feel I'm being honest in my writing, others are free to judge my piece however they wish.

Josh's picture
Posted by Josh (not verified) on 26 January 2006 - 3:31pm
What do you think would happen

...if you want on one of these junkets and then were critical of the sponsor, for whatever reason? Do you think you'd be invited on another junket?

Would some bloggers be tempted to not bite the hand that feeds them?

Here's what I see as the real question: Would readers be likely to wonder about where a blogger is coming from if they know the blogger is being wined and dined by a commercial interest?

They're just questions -- the same questions other media have to face every day. And they're the kinds of questions that will arise more and more.

I don't know your situation. For me, blogging is a hobby. I have a job. This is my ranting space. But if I were attempting to do this for a living, I would be very careful about questions like these, lest my credibility and integrity be questioned by those not sympathetic to my views.

What are journalists? Some are just-the-facts reporters. But many are openly expressing opinions. Same with bloggers. Some have done some pretty damn fine reporting, while the rest of us mostly express our views about this and that. I don't see much distinction.

They're just questions. I don't know if clear answers will emerge for quite some time, long after Ezra has recovered from his beer sampling excursions.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 26 January 2006 - 5:27pm
Depends on who owns BlogAds.
• Bloggers in Amsterdam is produced by Blogads.com. Founded in 2002, Blogads.com is a cooperative of leading bloggers helping advertisers place and manage ads on nearly 1000 blogs.

They are "transparent" about everything else but even at the Blogads.com site I can not find who owns this company. I am finding it is unnerving that certain blogs have taken it on to themselves to act as Santa Claus to the blogosphere... first there was offering their "own" personal money to be given to winners of the Koufax awards and now this... if they want transparency then... say what it is that they want in return for these acts of philantrophy.

Perhaps I am being over zealous... but as the old saying goes about the Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules...

postdated's picture
Posted by postdated (not verified) on 26 January 2006 - 5:45pm
There is a stench from the crock

What an abysmal joke. Truly. People are easily bought off... especially the eager.

Most of what I have seen in three to four years waltzing thru the BlogSmog is a snapshot of the large American HS experience, something I was spared. Endless breathless cliques. Acting out between classes. Being stupid. And collusion with a dying political party. And that is the self assigned ''A-listers''.

Not a pretty picture.

This calls to mind how blown away Kos was when the Guardian brought him to London for a week. I wonder if he knew the tittering that went on reading his posts.

Opera glasses and popcorn, at the ready, there is amusement to be had at the baby buccaneers in Amsterdam.

Billmon called it in his LAT editorial, September, 2004. And even then he had kindly waited a few months.

Marisacat's picture
Posted by Marisacat on 26 January 2006 - 3:57pm
Fly High or Social Change

This is THE ethics issue for those of us whose critique of U.S. Public Life is a "cultural critique"--e.g., our war-mongering arises from our patriarchal, nature-denying, acquisitive, repressive, oppressive, desensitized, indifferent, falsely spiritual, thanatos-obsessed, capitalistic worldview. And, sadly, one cannot live in such a culture without absorbing some of these UNDESIRABLE VALUES.

Junkets are a prime example. Are they not the ultimate PAYOFF? Isn't that "lucre" in the realm of DeLay and Abramoff?

So, to put it more plainly...do you want to be a high flier like T. Brokaw...or, an instrument of social change like Amy Goodman?

chuck despres's picture
Posted by chuck despres (not verified) on 27 January 2006 - 7:38pm
I don't feel I'm being bought off

In exchange for the trip, Holland.com is getting from me a monthlong premium ad which goes for $2160/month. It's a pretty good deal for me.

Danielle's picture
Posted by Danielle (not verified) on 27 January 2006 - 9:15pm
I suspect you are being bought off

The monthly premium ad might go for $2160, but the blogads promotion isn't paying you anything. I strongly suspect that the cost to them is on the order of a few hundreds of dollars, because this is the off season and the airline and hotel marketing partners have space going begging.

Plus the opportunity to break out of your advertising sidebar (invisible for people who use Firefox and adblock) and get column inches in the content of your weblog? You might think it's a good deal for you, but it's a _terrific_ deal for blogads and their marketing partners.

David Parsons's picture
Posted by David Parsons (not verified) on 27 January 2006 - 11:42pm
It's the same as selling ads

I'm gratefully accepting invitation from Blogads/Holland.com. My junket policy is the same as my ad policy: If an outfit wants to buy an ad, or offer me something of value in exchange for some sort of publicity, I'm open to the offer as long as I'm comfortable being associated publicly with that entity and they don't place any restrictions on what I say. Transparency is the key. As blogs take their place as media sources, we're going to have to hammer out an ethical code that makes blogging sustainable.

This is a radically subjective policy that's admittedly open to all kinds of self-serving cognitive dissonance, but that's an inevitable liability when you run a one-person publication for some semblance of profit. People like blogs because they are the voice of one individual who is free from editorial constraints. The downside is that even individuals have to get paid somehow.

There's no arrangement that offers limitless freedom. If you don't take any money from anyone, you've got to work a day job. Maybe, like me, you can't say just what you like about your industry because you blog under your real name and you can't afford to burn all your bridges.

One way to boost your independence is to blog under a pseudonym, but that's a mixed blessing because your credibility takes a hit off the top because nobody knows who you are, or where your money comes from.

The mainstream media solve this problem by creating corporations who hire people to write for a fixed salary. The writers achieve deniability because they don't pick ads and their paychecks aren't a direct function of ad rates or sponsorship deals. As anyone who has read "Manufacturing Consent" knows, this interposition of middlemen is at best an imperfect guarantee of impartiality.

There's a fundamental tension between independence and influence. If you never take any money, nobody has any influence over you. However, you may never have any influence over anyone else either because you don't have the time or the resources to pursue your project at a professional level.

I thought long and hard about the decision to sell ad space on my blog. That, to me was the most important ethical issue. The big difference between blogs and most forms of traditional journalism is the wall between editorial and advertising content. According to the traditional model those are two separate realms that should never be breached. Once you cross the line, you become a trade publication at best.

However, it's impossible to create that split on a personal blog. If you run the entire show, you have to be the writer, the editor, and the advertising sales manager. The problems become even more acute if you start weaning yourself from your day job in order to blog full-time. Suddenly, the blog ad money isn't just gravy, you need that money to pay your rent.

I wasn't even tempted to refuse the trip. Not only would I be passing up a really great personal opportunity, but also a great opportunity to create publicity for the blog. I can't afford to buy ads for my own blog or otherwise promote it, so I have to take the exposure where I can get it.

Lindsay Beyerstein's picture
Posted by Lindsay Beyerstein (not verified) on 27 January 2006 - 10:26pm
perhaps another blogger ethics committee... or perhaps not.

MG: This is an ethics issue that must be addressed, sooner or later.

Lindsay: As blogs take their place as media sources, we're going to have to hammer out an ethical code that makes blogging sustainable.

Paging Zephyr Teachout... waiting for Atrios, Gilliard, Cadenhead et al. to begin their sneering...

sennoma's picture
Posted by sennoma (not verified) on 29 January 2006 - 3:18pm
CLEANUP ON AISLE FOUR!

i've just verified your observation that blogsheroes is running an ad promoting Kate O'Beirne's book. as of 2:45 p.m. central on 01/31 the ad is flying high at the very top of the page.

does that BLOW? or what?

CLEANUP ON AISLE FOUR!

bayprairie's picture
Posted by bayprairie on 31 January 2006 - 2:50pm
Then price them out

Just click on the ads until they cant pay to be there anymore.

That simple.

Helps me pay to run the sites and hits them where it hurts. And better yet, review the damn book and publish it on the site. With its GooggleRank it will probably go to the top and screw with their buzz.

Culture + Politics + Technology

www.culturekitchen.com

New York grassroots news and activism

www.dailygotham.com

Personal Blog

www.lizasabater.com

Feminist Bloggers Network

www.blogsheroes.com

liza's picture
Posted by liza on 1 February 2006 - 8:44pm