Ethics. It’s on every one’s mind these days thanks to Ken Lay and Enron, Bernie Madoff and Ponzi schemes, corrupt politicians, police, and so much more. What does ethics have to do with blogging, you ask? Isn’t blogging personal and therefore exempt from certain rules? If my blog is for me, why do I need to worry about presenting a professional appearance? Who cares?
I am the largest proponent that blogging is indeed personal, and there are very few rules that one should follow. However, a blog is also very public. Unless you make it private, then anyone can read your words and will form opinions based on what you have to say, how you say it, and other general impressions received from images and verbiage used on your blog. Therefore, because it is so public, you owe it to yourself to present as professional and ethical an image as possible.
What is ethics? We could seriously debate the answer to this question for years and years and years and never come to a satisfactory definition of ethics. According to Dictionary.com, ethics can be defined as “a system of moral principles,” the “moral principles” of an individual, or “the rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession.” In essence, ethics are our moral values, our knowledge of right and wrong. What is professionalism? Professionalism, as defined by Business Dictionary.com is defined as the “Meticulous adherence to undeviating courtesy, honesty, and responsibility in one’s dealings with customers and associates, plus a level of excellence that goes over and above the commercial considerations and legal regulations.” Pretty self-explanatory, right? So how does it pertain to bloggers? How does it not?
Think of your blog as an online extension of you. How do you want to present yourself to others at your job? What about to your friends and family? Are you considering a change in jobs? Then ask yourself, ‘”Is there anything on my blog that might cause embarrassment for me, my family, or may be misconstrued by others?” This, my friends, highlights the reason why ethics and professionalism is so important for bloggers.
Let’s take it one step further. Since we are mostly book bloggers, we all have dreams of receiving free books in the form of review copies or the highly coveted advance reading copies (ARCs). We hope to interact with authors and form connections with the publishing industry. How can you hope to foster these types of relationships if you misspell words or use crass language? What do you think authors and publishers are going to do if they see you trash an author, his or her work, or even a fellow blogger? Let’s not forget the illegal action of selling ARCs to others on various book selling sites. What can you hope to accomplish by selling advanced reading copies of books you received for free for the sole purpose of review? What does this say about your ethics and moral values?
Freedom of speech means that yes, you can state whatever you want on your blog. Professionalism and ethics means that you should consider how you state whatever you want. You need to be prepared for the repercussions if you state something inflammatory and be willing to address any comments without malice or ill-intent. You should follow all laws and regulations, including the regulation stating that ARCs are not available for resale. A good rule of thumb would be to consider whether what you post is appropriate for your parents to read, your children to read, or your employers/employees to read. Because of its public nature, any one of those parties may indeed be reading your posts, and we have all heard stories of people who have been fired from their jobs based on something they posted online.
Professionalism and ethics does not just stop with your blog. It extends into any interaction you have with online resources. It also impacts how you should and should not interact with fellow bloggers, with authors, with publishing companies and publicists. How you interact with these groups can make or break you as a blogger. No one will want to read your thoughts if you continually post inflammatory matter or if you leave rude comments on others’ posts. Authors, publishing companies, and publicists will learn to steer clear if you continually request ARCs or review copies without ever reviewing the books or acknowledging their involvement in allowing you to get a copy. As book blogging becomes more and more business-like, it is imperative that we all continue to follow this rule and present ourselves in a positive light. When we do this, we, as bloggers, begin to earn the respect from and win the influence of publishers, publicists, and authors. By presenting ourselves as professionals, we gain legitimacy as reviewers and as target audiences, thereby increasing our power over what is released. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is a rule that applies in every forum. Professionalism and ethics do count in the blogging world. Because of our close ties with the writing community, these two ideals become even more important.
I love this part of your post: "Freedom of speech means that yes, you can state whatever you want on your blog. Professionalism and ethics means that you should consider how you state whatever you want."
My recent post Motherhood is Murder by Diana Orgain – Book Review
Definitely! I have already started my campaign!
Great post Michelle and valid points made. Thanks so much for being one of the masterminds behind Armchair BEA. Maybe next year us Michelles will get to meet in person at BEA. *fingers crossed*
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Follow the guidelines so we can all be happy!
My recent post Armchair BEA: Approaching Publishers and Authors
I can't even imagine selling ARCs. I am so careful with them specifically because I do not want to get in trouble with publishers or publicists and risk not getting them again. I consider it a huge privilege to get them.
Thanks, Florinda! I'm always surprised that this lesson has not yet sunk in yet with social media users. How many others will lose their jobs or find themselves in awkward situations because they say a bit too much online?
Thanks! It is imperative that we remember that the cyber world can be much more damaging to our good name than real life ever can be because there is always proof online.
Yes, I try not to mention people by name. I skirt the line a bit too closely unfortunately but am definitely getting better!
Thanks. There has been much talk about this lately, and I fear that many others continue to ignore these traits. One bad blogger gives the rest of us a bad name.
Blogger responsibility is so important. I get so frustrated when I see someone selling an ARC. I love to share mine and give them away as soon as I have finished reading them.
My recent post Armchair BEA: BBC Roundtable Writing and Building Content
This post is a great reminder that we all have a responsibility to ourselves and our values when we are out here in the cyber world.
My recent post Armchair BEA: Blogger Interview
Which is why I hardly ever mention people I know on my blog.
My recent post Branding: Not Just for Cattle
Timely and well spoken. In the beginning, on another blog I used to have, I made the mistake of not bearing in mind that my family followed my blog. I ended up hurting someone and our relationship is still feeling the effects.
After that, I always consider my "public" audience and my "personal" audience when writing and reviewing.
My recent post Armchair BEA: The Best Part of Your Blog is You