Mon, 13 July 2009
I read an interesting article on Kotaku.com this morning, a videogame news and review site. While the article was about videogame bloggers, the story is about a troubling issue that could threaten any blogger that reviews any type of media, whether it is a game, a dvd, or a book.
It seems the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is making a new "Truth-In-Advertising Guide". The FTC is looking into whether bloggers mostly give positive reviews to products they review simply because they get the bribe of a free review copy. The example given in the article is about a hypothetical videogame reviewer, but in reality, the FTC is talking about ALL bloggers.
There is also a mention of a New York Times article that states that most bloggers are simply made up identities concocted by a company's marketing department, or even if independent, are beholden to companies for the "gifts" they get and therefore do not give honest reviews.
So what the FTC is saying is that so-called "professional journalists" have no bias. Do you really think the book reviewers at the New York Times Book Review actually BUY any of the books they review? Come on! Do you think Roger Ebert or Gene Siskel ever paid their own money to see a movie? Or any of the various electronics magazines...Do their reviewers actually buy the equipment they review? I guess if you write for a newspaper or magazine, that makes you above reproach?
It sounds like a witch hunt to me. I think the newspapers and magazines would love to take down bloggers, because they can't control them. In fact, bloggers and online news sites are destroying physical print news and reviews outlets. Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are quite happy to only have "Official" mags out there so they can strangle any real power that says some of their games suck. One of the problems that gaming magazines find in getting advertising is that sometimes game developers get pissed at them for negative reviews and refuse to work with them.
I don't really have this bias problem. I very rarely get free review copies. Seven Seas has sent me a couple of books (4?), in most cases after I had already bought them on my own. I have never gotten a free review copy of an anime dvd. But I've never really tried very hard to get review copies either. I know that when I did receive those books, it made me very uncomfortable because I didn't know whether it would influence me, even in a subconscious way. Luckily, I don't have to worry when I review something, I really mean what I say. When I really hate something, whether it's an anime or manga, I rip it to shreds (figuratively:). Or when I really love something, it's completely honest. Because it's my hard earned money that has gone up in smoke when I read or watch a piece of trash.
I know some reviewers get BOXES of free material to watch and read. Does it bias them in their reviews? I'm sure that it does influence some of them, but not others. I doubt that will ever happen to me, because I speak out when I see myself getting ripped off or see dumb moves by manga publishers. So I doubt any of them are lining up to send me free stuff. For example, when Tokyopop raises prices but lowers their paper quality, or Viz vomits on shelves with One Piece, or raises their prices for no good reason. It pisses me off. But probably if I had UPS trucks dropping off hundreds of dollars of manga or anime, I would probably mute my criticism or at least make it more "civilized" because I wouldn't be losing anything. I didn't pay for it, right? So who cares. I probably wouldn't say their paper sucks or that they are greedy or that they are choking off shelf space for smaller titles and publishers. And that maybe doing that choking is what they want.
So, in the end it's left up to the conscience of each reviewer to decide whether they can be truly independent if they receive free review items. I just think it's completely hypocritical of the FTC to say there's no problem if "professional journalists" get them, but with bloggers, there is. That it's ok for one type of reviewer to receive review copies but not the other. I also think it's wrong to say that MOST, if not ALL are dishonest and merely patsies for corporations. To me, this smacks of lobbyists in Washington pressuring the government to curb in and discredit bloggers that give negative reviews to their products. I'll put up the links to the Kotaku article and the New York Times article as well.
Category:News -- posted at: 8:28pm CDT