It was called to my attention that there was an interesting tidbit featured on NPR yesterday, summarizing how the FTC may impose fines (up to $11,000 per post) for bloggers who receive freebies and post positive reviews. Bloggers across the nation are reeling from the shockwave of this news.
Critics have been receiving free review copies for decades. How are they supposed to review a book that has not yet hit the bookstore shelves if they don’t receive an advance copy and actually read it? The same holds true for games, movies, toys, CDs, and other products. If we are to review it, we should have a copy in our hands and actually make use of it first, so that we are educated about the things that we are critiquing. Publicists send out review copies to writers (be they journalists, bloggers, or librarians), in the hopes that they will do a little free advertising and help promote the product. However, reviewers are under no obligation to post a positive review, and many pride themselves on pointing out faults or areas for improvement. Though some reviews are positive, that is certainly not a requirement. It is my opinion that blog posts should be protected as basic rights — freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
What I find interesting is that, as a freelance journalist, I am not bound by these same guidelines. If I write a review for a magazine or newspaper, even if I am paid for it, I am under no such obligation to insert a disclaimer. Furthermore, as journalist Scott Jagow points out in the American Public Media article, politicians are under no such requirements to report freebies and payouts received from lobbyists and big business that may actually affect votes and legislation.
Just to set the record straight, I shall insert the following disclaimer:
Almost everything I review was sent to me free of charge, explicitly for the purposes of review. I do not always post positive reviews. I post my honest opinion of the product. Readers should be aware that I am reviewing free products that I was sent for the purposes of critique. Furthermore, publicists who send me books, toys, games, flight lessons, etc. for review should be warned that my critiques are just that — a critical opinion (sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and sometimes a little of both).
To see the full NPR article, please click here.