August 6, 2009

Blogger Code of Ethics

A few weeks ago, I wrote about ethics and sponsorships after reading an article in the New York Times, and it created quite a lively conversation. I also recently had a conversation with some friends about this topic and everyone agreed that it’s best to disclose, so as not to muddy the waters with what's been given and what's been bought.

Today, as I was reading the Guardian on-line, I found a piece about a food bloggers' code of ethics, which I thought was very interesting, and could be revised slightly to encompass bloggers who write about products and services.

The Food Blog Code of Ethics is from a blog entitled exactly Food Ethics. Here’s the Code which they’ve written.

The Code

We wrote the Food Blog Code of Ethics after many heated conversations with fellow food bloggers. Those discussions inspired us to lay down some basic guidelines for food writing on the Internet because we couldn’t find any that already existed. These aren’t laws that we expect everyone to follow. These aren’t rules you have to accept as your own. We know they don’t apply to everybody. They’re a jumping off point to start a bigger discussion.

The Code is not intended to limit anyone’s freedom of speech. We offer these pages to advocate accountability, accuracy and honesty in the world of food blogging. The Code is designed as a set of guidelines, not a punishable set of laws.

1. We will be accountable

  • We will write about the culinary world with the care of a professional. We will not use the power of our blog as a weapon. We will stand behind our claims. If what we say or show could potentially affect someone’s reputation or livelihood, we will post with the utmost thought and due diligence.
  • We understand why some bloggers choose to stay anonymous. We respect that need but will not use it as an excuse to avoid accountability. When we choose to write anonymously for our own personal or professional safety, we will not post things we wouldn’t be comfortable putting our names to.
  • If we review a restaurant, product or culinary resource we will consider integrating the standard set of guidelines as offered by the Association of Food Journalists.

2. We will be civil

  • We wholeheartedly believe in freedom of speech, but we also acknowledge that our experiences with food are subjective. We promise to be mindful—regardless of how passionate we are—that we will be forthright, and will refrain from personal attacks.

3. We will reveal bias

  • If we are writing about something or someone we are emotionally or financially connected to, we will be up front about it.

4. We will disclose gifts, comps and samples

  • When something is given to us or offered at a deep discount because of our blog, we will disclose that information. As bloggers, most of us do not have the budgets of large publications, and we recognize the value of samples, review copies of books, donated giveaway items and culinary events. It’s important to disclose freebies to avoid be accused of conflicts of interest.

5. We will follow the rules of good journalism

  • We will not plagiarize. We will respect copyright on photos. We will attribute recipes and note if they are adaptations from a published original. We will research. We will attribute quotes and offer link backs to original sources whenever.

Even though this code is for food bloggers, I think that it is a good basis for most bloggers who write about products, services and the like. I am very interested in your thought on this subject.


  1. Meg - I was just going to check in with some magazine folks to see how they handle these types of things as well. I think adopting the code is a great idea. It would be terrific to have a recognizable logo identifying the bloggers who are on board.

  2. This is excellent, all the way 'round.

  3. We will not plagiarize. We will respect copyright on photos. We will attribute recipes and note if they are adaptations from a published original. We will research. We will attribute quotes and offer link backs to original sources whenever

    it certainly would be nice if these things were followed, but sadly it seems the poaching of other's ideas, writing, and photos without credit is rife in the blogging world, and i think many bloggers don't even realize they've done anything wrong. mistakes, like postings on a similar topic, will of course happen- with so many of us writing on similar subjects, it's inevitable, and there is just no way to keep up with all posts on all blogs, to know if you've written about something already covered. happens in the publishing world all the time.

    photos are a different matter- if you take a photo off someone's blog, you KNOW you are doing it, and not to give the blog a credit, is just wrong (a simple via pigtown or via maison21, accompanied by a link isn't so much extra work, so why not do it? and to not remove a stolen photo when asked, is even worse- but it seems some bloggers- even widely read and supposedly respectable bloggers- think that particular form of copyright infringement is no big deal.

    i'm sure you can tell from my comment, meg, that this is an issue i feel strongly about, so THANK YOU for reprinting this "blogger code of ethics". i hope that all the bloggers who follow (and comment) on your blog read the code and take it to heart. i know i will.

  4. This is so important. It would be great if all of this were actualized in practice.

    With the advertising though: I like to have it be obvious on the site but not verbalized with huge letters like SPONSORED POST. That really annoys me - I don't care how you keep your lights on, just show me something beautiful and let me trust that you have determined its quality for me. For the bloggers I read religiously, I trust you, Mrs. B, E&E, and so on to pick a great product and if I need it, I will buy it whether they are your sponsor or not. No, I do not dig financial disclosures, possibly because I am an essayist and not a journalist of any sort. But I will tell you, I never buy cosmetics recommeded by mags because I suspect they are paid endorsements - I don't know, this is murky stuff..

  5. I salute you, Pigtown for leading the battle. I think bloggers who come from design world may never think these ideas hold credibility. I think bloggers who came from print/journalism will recognize the need. And I think the photographers will give you a big shout out. They have been the often neglected foot soldiers who far too long have remained unnamed and uncredited.

    Not being a blogger, I'd like to say these guidelines are good for life outside blogworld as well.

  6. These are excellent reminders and lay a good groundwork, Meg. Thank you and have a super weekend!

  7. I'm with you on this too. What's not agree with.
    I do think that the way things are handled, when one of these acts is committed, speaks volumes. And it isn't always with dignity.

  8. Great post. What Maison said about photos though - I can't tell you how many times I see the same photo on blog after blog after blog and sometimes the original is long lost and forgotten. I don't think that if a photo comes from a magazine, then from another blog, then from another blog, you have to worry about copyrights. Myself, I could care less who takes my photos and enjoys them. To me, that's what they are there for. I certainly am not making money off photography. I rather enjoy seeing a photo of mine pop up in Australia. The more magazines that go under, the less photos we are all going to have anyway. As for endorsements, I've never been offered fabric or a sofa, or a chair, a seagrass rug, a slipcover, a chandy, or a antique - all the things I pitch day after day. I do think it's fairly obvious when you pitch a new book - you probably have been pitched it yourself. I am not sure that design bloggers can make and break careers like the foodies seem to think they can. I know no one is not going to hire Bunny because I didn't like her room. But the copying of an article - go for it. It's disgusting, plain and simple. Myself, I labor over every single word that goes out on my blog - the day someone accuses me of copying anyone is the day I hire a lawyer. Work up a code. I'll sign it today.

  9. Joni... I have a google alert for "pigtown design" and recently, I got an alert for a site that had lifted each and every one of my posts, verbatum and posted them. Funnily enough, I can't access the site via anything but a cached view, but every post says my title, posted by the other person. It's creepy.

  10. Completely with you and love the logo idea.
    As far as photos, we get photos lifted from our retail antique site or 1stdibds all the time and I wish people would attribute them so that if someone were interested they could find the product. But we've never put a watermark on our photos the way some stores do because we believe in the promotion of antiques in general and sort of feel like, gee if it has been around for 100-200 years how can I "own" it? We are just passing it on to a new owner far as the freebies, I agree with Joni that they aren't as prevalent in this world than perhaps the "mommy"or food blogs, etc. Though Joni, I have considered it! (sending you something :) let me know if it would work!
    Have a great weekend.
    Olga (

  11. Meg - I have that too -!!! My Natural Furniture - is one of my twin blogs and there is one other that I can't remember the name. They are just bots that pick up on a word you wrote I think. No one reads them. But it IS so weird!!!!

  12. So glad you found us that you find the code applicable for your field, too. Together we'll all make blogging better!

  13. Thanks, Leah. I think that this is an excellent guide for anyone who is blogging. Thanks for setting them up.

  14. I think this is a great idea. So many bloggers are wonderful without a code but only takes one bad apple...

  15. I am on board and think that this is a great idea.

  16. Meg I linked this post in my blog.

    I write a great deal about art products I use, my painting teacher and his DVDs etc. After reading this I decided to state upfront that I receive no sponsorship gifts etc.

    I never wondered if people thought this before but your most made me chew on it for awhile.

  17. Great post Meg. I have had one of those "bots" Joni talked about using my posts verbatum also. But they have at least attributed the posts to me. The only freebies I have gotten are books for review....and I don't advertize, so no problem there. Not really sure how to treat the book thing. I think you are right and I should just disclose it was given for review ahead of retail availablity. I think if one is up front and acts with fairness in mind, it just allows for a better night's sleep. Sign me up!


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