Honest Blogging: A Public Declaration

Governors Island, New York, August 2009

I was kind of amused to see that there's some American government agency planning to regulate misleading blogs. You've got to admire their ambition, even while laughing long and hard at how pointless and Sisyphean a task they've set themselves. Maybe their initiative will have the effect of increasing voluntary transparency - which would be welcome. So in such a spirit, here's what you need to know about what you read here.

1) When I review a record or DVD, I've almost always been sent a free copy of it by the record company, or an independent press officer hired by the record company. Usually I get to keep these. 

2) If I'm reviewing a concert, 99 per cent of the time I got the ticket for free too. Nor do I pay to get into the cricket matches you'll see reports (very occasionally) linked to here: the ECB give me a pass which gets me in to county matches for the whole season. Film reviews, when I do them, are done following a preview screening, to which I am invited by the film company, and at which I may get a free cup of tea, or occasionally a biscuit, in addition to not paying to see the film. 

3) If I'm interviewing an artist in a foreign country (or even a part of this country that's not London or environs), the record company the artist is signed to will usually have paid for my travel and, if necessary, accommodation and food while away from home. In the US, publications pay these costs for writers, but in the UK, it's almost always the company who will benefit from the coverage who foots the bill. I have never been asked, directly or implicitly, to alter any aspect of what I write because of who's footing the bill. Nor have I ever been offered drugs, or sex, or anything else that people who don't work in the media think that people in the media get offered all the time by press officers. PR people do occasionally offer to buy me beer - but I've not drank since 2001, so usually settle for tea instead. 

4) If I'm writing about other things - military aviation, for instance - where there's no commercial product being promoted, or if I'm writing for an American publication, it's likely that any expenses I have will be paid by the title that runs the piece. When I was writing about Forward Air Controller training the other month, I did accept two styrofoam cups of tea while watching training taking place on the gunnery range at Otterburn. That sort of thing happens a fair bit. They give you tea at the cricket, too, though you generally have to make it yourself.  

5) Very occasionally, if someone's really liked a piece or pieces I've written and feel it/they made a difference to the success of a particular project, they might send me a gift. In 19 years as a music journalist, I have received three platinum discs (two from The Prodigy - one of which, for The Fat of the Land, was less to do with the cover feature I wrote on them for Vox magazine than it was to do with me having introduced the band's manager to Kool Keith, who made an appearance on the album - and one from Gnarls Barkley) and one four-foot privet bush (a most unusual offering from an independent PR company who felt I'd had to put up with an undue amount of waiting around over a particular interview with one of their clients - something that came as a surprise to me, as it had all seemed to go pretty painlessly. I won't name the company, but we call the bush Dido).

Hope that's all clear enough to help you decide whether I can be trusted or not, though it remains to be seen whether I'd pass muster with the FTC. Of course, if you have any questions, do please fire away. 


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