Nov 082007
 

A few hours ago FSK of FSK’s Guide To Reality posted a rather long comment on my review of MyWallSt.net from last month asking far too many questions for me to address in the comment section. Apparently he’s greatly concerned about the fact that I actually get paid to write some of the things I write here. I find this strange coming from someone who also recently asked me how he could make money off the writing he does at his blog, but I’ll still do my best to answer his questions. The sections in the darker boxes are all quotes pulled from FSK’s comment:

First, it was by no means obvious to me that it was an advertisement. The only hint was a small logo on the bottom of the page.

Although I assume it was not intended as such, I take this as a compliment. Most people have trained themselves to ignore advertisements. My advertisers pay me to write things that people will actually read. I chalk this up as a success since FSK clearly read the post.

Really? How much did you get paid for compromising your journalistic integrity?

Yes, really. I didn’t get paid anything for “compromising [my] journalistic integrity” because that’s not what happened in that post or any other that I make here. First off, my integrity is not compromised in any way as I never write anything that I don’t believe (except for the sarcasm, but that rarely appears in sponsored posts). There are several sponsored posts here on Philaahzophy that very specifically do not endorse the product or service being advertised (no I’m not interested in taking the time to hunt them down to point them out to you.)

In fact, one of the main reasons I prefer sponsored posts over Adsense ads is that I control what is advertised on my blog. Accepting Adsense (or any other automatically placed content) on one’s site seems to be a far greater risk of appearing to endorse something in which you don’t believe. Yes, I do this as well, though I’m still trying to decide whether to continue. I do make sure that all such automatically placed content is clearly labeled as advertising or sponsored links because I have less control over what goes in that space on my blog. Those advertisers are essentially renting real estate from me. With sponsored posts they are paying me to express my opinion. Since when is expressing one’s opinion a lack of integrity.

Second of all the phrase “journalistic integrity” is totally inappropriate as I am, in no way, a journalist. Here are a few definitions of ‘journalist’ I quickly gathered through Google-

  • a writer for newspapers and magazines
  • Someone who works in the news gathering business, such as a photographer, editor or reporter
  • Journalist (Born Rafiek George, 24) is an underground hip hop rapper from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

None of these apply to me. I do not work in the news gathering business, nor do I write for a newspaper or magazine, and I’m not even a fan of most hip hop, much less a rapper. I’m just a guy who has chosen to share his opinions on pretty much whatever I feel like that day with the world. In no way do I hide the fact that I get paid for what I write here. The link to my disclosure statement is in the right sidebar of every page, many posts have “sponsored by” buttons in them that are of a contrasting color to make them stand out, and I regularly blog about how much I make and offer strategies for others to do the same.

How much would I accept to make a white lie like that?

I have no idea how much you would accept to lie on your blog. But it would take quite a few zeros to get me to do so. Which is why I don’t accept advertising dollars from any company or individual who attempts to control what I write here. It’s my name on the blog and they’re my opinions in the posts.

How do you line up deals like that? How many advertising deals do you have? How many readers do you have? I’m at around 100/week, which probably means I couldn’t net much from advertising.

Check out my Paid To Write and Blogging categories for how I line up these deals. I can’t really answer how many ‘deals’ there are, but I work through about a dozen different advertising agencies (interestingly, I just received a contract from another such agency while writing this post). With most of these agencies each post is considered a separate deal. I’m currently getting around 100 unique visitors a day and about 1000 unique visitors a month. Occasionally one of my posts will receive extra attention at Digg or StumbleUpon and I’ll climb to 500 uniques in a day.

Is your promotion of Somalia as a stable anarchistic society an advertisement?

Not at all, though I wish it was. If you know of anyone willing to pay me for writing about Somalia in specific or anarchy in general, PLEASE send them my way! I’d even offer you a commission as a finders fee! Everything I write about here I write because it interests me and I have a desire to share the information with others. I write about Somalia because it is a real-time example of a working anarchist society. Despite the fact that it has been so for over a decade now people continue to deny that such a thing could ever exist. Would I want to move to Somalia as it is today? No, it has far too many problems, the climate sucks, and my slave masters, the U.S. Government, won’t allow me to travel outside the US borders, much less move. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a functioning society that exists without a government.

My main concern with Aahz’s blog is that the post wasn’t clearly marked as an advertisement. The only hint is a small icon at the bottom.

[…]

Was Aahz merely pretending to be a newbie investor, or does he really not know much about investing?

Careful, you’ve slipped into the blogger mode of writing instead of the commenter mode 😉 I’m sorry that you’re concerned that I didn’t mark the post as an advertisement. But I also have no intention of highlighting my sponsored posts for your convenience. Either you’re interested in what I have to say or you’re not. If the former then it shouldn’t make a difference whether or not I was paid. If the latter then it still won’t make a difference because you won’t be here at all. Yes, I’m genuinely a newbie investor. At least in the sense that I have a grand total of $0 currently invested in the stock market. If I wasn’t, I would have written that piece from an entirely different angle. If you truly believe that being paid for doing something makes the person doing it a liar then you must have a pretty low opinion of most of society. The average American spends nearly 1/3 of their life working for a living. That would mean that 1/3 of our lives are a lie. Personally, I refuse work that requires I misrepresent myself, whether that earning opportunity is online or off. Besides, isn’t attacking my opinions just because I earned a few bucks on them just another twist on the Strawman Fallacy you fight so hard against on your blog?

There’s much more in the comment that has to do directly with MyWallSt.net and the particular post, but I’ll address all of that in a comment there later this evening (I have to do a little work still before heading off to Z’s parent-teacher conferences) . If I’ve failed to address any of your concerns, FSK (or those of anyone else who’s reading this) please leave a comment to let me know and I’ll do my best. The best part about blogs is that the comment sections allow for far more interaction then writing on paper ever did.

  7 Responses to “Journalistic Integrity At Philaahzophy”

  1. I slipped into blogging mode because I’m composing this in my future “Reader Mail #12” post and cutting and pasting it here. (I assume you don’t claim copyright over reader comments posted in your blog.)

    I say that it is breaking journalistic integrity to accept payment to write an article, without clearly stating that article is an advertisement. Mainstream media does this all the time, but that does not make it moral. For example, a news story may cover the merits of a new drug, while the TV station takes advertisements from drug companies (for the same or different drugs).

    Personally, if I was being paid to write on something I thought was true, I could do that without feeling guilty. If I was being paid to make a white lie, it would have to be a decent amount of money. I don’t think I could be paid to write a “The Federal Reserve is wonderful” article, without it coming out as being completely sarcastic.

    I would be breaking my journalistic integrity to say that MyWallSt.com is the best site for newbie investors, when I consider other sites to be better. Aahz probably doesn’t have as much financial knowledge as I do, so his ability to evaluate an investment website may be different. Later, Aahz says that he really is a true newbie investor.

    I’ll define journalistic integrity. The people usually classified as journalists I would more properly classify as propaganda artists. Journalistic integrity means that I should write about what I sincerely think is true and interesting. If someone pays me to write about something, I should tell my readers that I received payment, even if I would have written the article anyway. I try to avoid lying, and I consider confusing advertisements with content to be lying.

    If I knew that article was an advertisement, I would not have checked out MyWallSt.com at all. You cost me the handful of minutes I spent looking at MyWallSt.com and deciding “This site sucks! Why did Aahz refer me here?” I now know enough to not be fooled again, so I can read the rest of your blog without the advertisements bothering me as much.

    I did not contradict myself by asking for advice on ways to monetize my blog, and being critical of paid-for posts. There are other honest ways to monetize a blog, such as Google adwords.

    I guess there is some risk of being associated with inappropriate content by using adwords, since I don’t control the content presented. On the other hand, the blog reader can ignore the adwords section. I don’t use adwords yet either, primarily for the reason that it would only net me at most a few dollars per month.

    I consider presenting advertisements as content to be a breach of journalistic integrity. Of course, I am not blogging for profit (at this time), so I can write on whatever interests me. Morally, I would have to say “THIS POST IS AN ADVERTISEMENT” in bold letters at the top of the page, to not feel guilty about it.

    Actually, that’s a common censorship tactic used by the media. If a TV show broadcasts something that contradicts the official corporate statist agenda, advertisers may pull their ads. Economic pressure insures that viewpoints expressed by mainstream media follow certain guidelines. This is not genuine free market pressure, because almost all advertisements are placed by large corporations, who receive massive state subsidies.

    Aahz also says:

    The average American spends nearly 1/3 of their life working for a living. That would mean that 1/3 of our lives are a lie. Besides, isn’t attacking my opinions just because I earned a few bucks on them just another twist on the Strawman Fallacy you fight so hard against on your blog?

    Yes, the current economic and political system is completely and totally corrupt. Looking back at all the jobs I’ve had, they were in fact a complete and utter waste of time. Financial programming is irrelevant. The financial industry makes its money from a massive government subsidy, and not by writing good software. I’ve also worked in the telecom industry. Cell phone companies received a massive government subsidy in the form of spectrum rights auctioned off at a deep discount to the fair value. The cell phone company I worked for made more money off appreciation in their spectrum rights than anything else they did.

    Yes, all the jobs I’ve had were a lie. In retrospect, almost all white collar jobs are a complete and utter waste of time. The US economy is almost completely fraudulent. Certain aspects of the economy are so efficient that things keep running even though a massive amount of waste occurs. I’m afraid to say that, IMHO, none of the programming jobs I’ve ever had have increased the total wealth of the entire world. In that sense, all my jobs were a lie. On the other hand, I still need to work to survive.

    I do feel that my blog overall increases the wealth of the entire world, because it’s educating people. If people can be converted to the agorist/anarchist philosophy, or educated in that direction, it is very valuable.

    No, I would be using the Strawman Fallacy against Aahz if I stopped reading his blog because of the worst thing he did: improperly representing paid advertisements as original posts. I will continue to read his blog as long as it is interesting. Aahz’s blog is currently on my “hitlist” and is under evaluation for being promoted into my “read regularly” list. I can be critical of the things you do that I don’t like, without using the Strawman Fallacy against you. As long as I’m only criticizing specific actions, I’m not using the Strawman Fallacy.

  2. I forgot to subscribe to followup comments by E-Mail.

  3. FSK: I slipped into blogging mode because I’m composing this in my future “Reader Mail #12? post and cutting and pasting it here. (I assume you don’t claim copyright over reader comments posted in your blog.)

    Makes sense. I was just pokin’ fun 😉 (Of course not, aside from the fallacy of intellectual property in the first place, who am I to claim any credit or control over your words)

    I say that it is breaking journalistic integrity to accept payment to write an article, without clearly stating that article is an advertisement.

    And you’re entitled both to your opinion and to run your blog as you see fit. I disagree with your opinion for the reasons explained above and trust that you will afford me the same respect on my blog. We agree exactly on: Personally, if I was being paid to write on something I thought was true, I could do that without feeling guilty. If I was being paid to make a white lie, it would have to be a decent amount of money. Our only point of disagreement is on whether it should be labeled as such.

    Note that I did not use the media’s example as an excuse. They purport to be presenting objective news while coloring it due to their advertiser’s wish. Everything I write here (aka anything not credited to another source) is 100% opinion and I stand by my history as proof of lack of bowing to advertisers.

    If I knew that article was an advertisement, I would not have checked out MyWallSt.com at all. You cost me the handful of minutes I spent looking at MyWallSt.com and deciding “This site sucks! Why did Aahz refer me here?”

    Then I can sleep soundly knowing my advertisers got their money’s worth. I did my job well. You answered your final question later in your comment – I sent you there because the site is, in my (very uneducated) opinion an excellent source for those entering the market for the first time.

    Yes, all the jobs I’ve had were a lie.
    […]
    On the other hand, I still need to work to survive.

    While I agree with the bulk of your assessment I have struggled long and hard to only accept jobs that I did not feel would be living a lie. My income has ‘suffered’ greatly as a result, but I’m proud of 90% of the jobs I’ve had and the companies I’ve worked for. All of those jobs (rather, of that 90% – we all make occasional mistakes in judgment) jobs helped increase the wealth (in the broad sense, if not the monetary sense) of the communities which they served.

    Yeah, the Strawman Fallacy was a bit of a stretch, but I couldn’t help myself. Besides another link back to one of your posts can only help when/if you decide to monetize your blog.

  4. Oops, forgot to mention Adsense. You’re probably going to want to think long and hard about Adsense (or any 3rd party generated content) or place a pretty big disclaimer nearby. As an example of what can occur, my pro-Ron Paul posts tend to get a lot of Adsense ads coming up for Hillary, Obama and Giuliani, none of whom I support in any way, shape or form; my posts with anarchy as a prime keyword bring up all sorts of anti-anarchy ads (I’m not sure agorist will even key anything, but ya never know); and my negative reviews of various products and services have frequently brought up ads for those very goods or services I’m railing against.

  5. What a crybaby this person is. He keeps harping on “journalistic integrity” as if it was a principle that applied here. And yet this blog is obviously not “journalistic.” What next, is he gonna argue that novels should only report true events or they break “journalistic integrity”? Ridiculous, preposterous.

    As you said, if getting paid for something is morally dubious, then ideally no one should ever work. This is a very silly position indeed. Maybe he does not trust you to have integrity, but in such a case why read your blog at all? What’s the point?

    What a whiner!

    (as for my own criticisms about your blog, the only one I have is that you could make the comments link more prominent- I never notice it)

  6. FSK’s a good guy, but I think he’s been living a lie (by his own admission) for so long that he has to assume everyone else will alter their opinion for money as well. It’s a typical human coping mechanism that he’ll hopefully grow out of eventually. It makes it a lot easier to live with our own hypocrisy if we project that hypocrisy on others as well.

    As anarchists, especially, we are all so used to having to defend ourselves on every front that it’s sometimes hard to accept that we might be wrong on something. I think that’s the same reason so many anarchists (agorists, libertarians, etc) spend so much time fighting amongst themselves over the labels we use to describe our belief systems. We often forget that the root of all freedom is to believe something different than someone else and not be attacked or denigrated for it.

    Thanks for the pointer on the comment link. I’ve moved it up so that it hopefully is a little more visible.

  7. Everyone loves what you guys are up too. Such clever work and coverage! Keep up the awesome works guys I’ve added you guys to our blogroll.|

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