An ethical question

Subject: An ethical question
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002 14:33:49 -0700

I'm curious what list members think about a situation that has arisen this week:

Besides doing marcom and technical writing, I also do some computer journalism. This week, a PR person contacted me about "collaborating" with a company. At first, the comments suggested that the intent was to produce some marketing collateral. However, further e-mails made clear that the point was to cooperate in writing reviews about the company's products.

I replied that any reviews would be completely independent, and would need to be based on personal testing. The reply suggests that this is fine.However, I'm still uneasy.

I realize that many people believe that journalists routinely establish this kind of special relation with the makers of the products that they are discussing. However, I have never worked this way. Nor, so far as I know, neither have the journalists I know best. Nor, when I've been doing marketing work myself, have I done more than send complementary copies of products to recognized reviewers who might be interested in the product or who requested copies.

I'm polling a couple of editors and journalists, but I'm interested in other opinions. So, the question is: am I being overly-punctilious? Or is the stiuation as ethically questionable as I tend to think?

Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177

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