RE: An ethical question

Subject: RE: An ethical question
From: "Sean O'Donoghue-Hayes (EAA)" <Sean.O'Donoghue-Hayes -at- ericsson -dot- com -dot- au>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2002 10:23:07 +1000


Bruce,

the question I think should be phrased...

if your editor said review this company's products - would you have written
articles on them? I would think yes.

Okay the PR guy is trying to be proactive and getting you to look and
positively review their products. Now unless they are going to be editing
the pieces there should be no way that your message gets altered - it is
still your review. If they decide to use it for marketing purposes then you
are both happy - from what I have seen many companies can make even the
worse review into something palatable in advertising if they wish....."The
worst pc in living history"...becomes Bruce said ".....pc in living
history..."...and add fluff around the quote.

On your byline, perhaps add: Bruce Byfield was invited by MegaCorporation to
review their products, or....at the start of the article say "I got a call
the other day from MegaCorporation to review their products, so I went. Now
the ES2000 is...."

Hope that helps. Personally I think that if the company contacts you, and
you intended to review that type of product anyway, it may allow you greater
access to make a good story/article - and is not a conflict of interest
unless there is some type of "bribery" to effect the actual outcome of the
review in the article. At least you will not JUST be repeating the marketing
blurb supplied by a marketing hack as sometimes seems to occur in the
"review" industry.

People will always try and influence your opinion, some will be nice, some
will bully, some will just be nice normally - and still have shoddy products
- and you will to some extent be influenced it is human nature. In
recognizing that they will try and influence you means you are pre-warned,
and thus armed against this.

I would review the products from the company, and exploit the relationship
for as much information as I could get from them; knowing that they are
trying to do the same. Such is the nature of the beast.

If they are not editing the articles, and are not tying the articles to
advertising in the magazine/newspaper then there is no greater conflict than
if you had called them, and the company PR guy had said "sure, let me help
you", you probably would have thought - "thank god, this should make writing
these articles easier....".

IF you think his/her views are too pro the company, and ignoring the reality
of the product, then edit them out - you are under NO compulsion to include
them that I can see - no deal has been done, no largesse changed hands.

regards and thanks,
Sean

-----Original Message-----
From: Bruce Byfield [mailto:bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com]
Sent: Friday, 12 July 2002 7:34 AM
To: TECHWR-L
Subject: An ethical question



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?

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