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February 13, 2007

Blogging ethics

(Posted by francois to: blogging )

Yesterday Nate Ritter posted a comment on my story about Alaska Airlines - bringing up a good point about whether bloggers with a certain audience should refrain from lambasting companies with which they have had bad experiences.

Journalists have a clear code of ethics - as maintained by the Society of Professional Journalists. The code of ethics is built around the basic premise that journalists should "Seek Truth and Report It." One section of the code says "Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context."

But isn't that what a blog is by definition? This is not a news site. It is a stream of personal commentaries on marketing and sometimes personal experiences.

I am very aware of the power of the blog and its ability to harm in Google searches and the like - and that makes me pause when I have a bad experience with a company. But when the experience goes as far as costing someone $900 out of their own pocket, and when the experience is representative of a whole industry-segment's trend of disintegrating customer service - does that not give an individual the right to use his or her personal journal to retell the story?

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Oh, don't get me wrong Francois. I totally agree with you telling the story. And as a blogger, not a journalist, I feel that blogs are actually more like Op-Ed columns rather than journalism. Not to mention, if I had your experience, I would probably also blog about it. What I was hoping for was some saving grace, some attempt to rectify the situation. That's why I contacted them through their contact form for you.

But, with as much as you went through, I don't blame you for not giving them another chance. It's easy for me to feel for them since I've had good experiences with them.

So, if they truly don't comment on this blog, or somehow contact you to fix the situation, I'll be fully on your side in regards to Alaska Air not caring about their customers.

In regards to the ethics part of it - I'm fully on your side already.

Posted by: nate at February 14, 2007 12:22 PM

We as individuals are relatively powerless against corporations. If there is no mandate to improve customer service, then it will continue to decline as the bottom line gets leaner and leaner. The only mandate that makes a difference to airlines is financial.

So if one blogger can influence other customers to speak up about a company that has been deceitful and neglected its customer service responsibilities, then I'm all for it as long as he's telling the truth (which I assume he is).

I have no sympathy for the company at fault here -- remember, no person is actually responsible for the inconvenience of that plane full of people; indeed the company didn't even send a representative to speak to the customers in person. Does that sound ethical to you?

Why should we as customers censor ourselves? Why should we voluntarily surrender our last bit of power, and give a free pass to a company -- or an industry -- that has made it a policy to nickel and dime us while simultaneously lowering its standards of quality, comfort, punctuality, and service?

I can only conclude that Nate (and so many others like him) has drunk the kool-aid of the Corporation to such an extent that he's lost sight of his identity as a customer.

Posted by: denise at February 18, 2007 08:39 PM

"No person is actually responsible for the inconvenience..."?

A company is the people. Someone made the decision. That someone is actually responsible.

I'm not asking for censorship. I'm not asking for us, as citizens and patrons, to not speak up when it's time. When did it become a power play? Isn't it simply us consuming the services they offer? You have a choice to be their customer or not. I think, many times we (both you, denise, and I) think we are owed something by a company just because they are a company. We're not owed anything we don't offer them our money for. Francois IS, in this case, owed something right now because he paid for something he did not receive. THAT is unethical, yes. But, it's not unethical to ask for them to correct it prior to attempting to discredit the service and value they offer us as consumers.

Your conclusion is founded on false premises that (1) there is an overarching thing called a "Corporation" (with a capital C), and (2) I (and people like me) think everything a corporation does is correct or can be washed away lightly. Both are incorrect and lead to false assumptions such as thinking there's a power struggle between consumers and every corporation that exists.

Being a consumer only gives you rights because you have the privledge to consume. You are not poor. You are not being taken advantage of by every business (or even every large business) that exists. These business exists to provide value to your life. If you don't want the value, don't pay them for it.

IF you think they are not offering something equal to the money you're putting up, then yes, it's worth talking about. But, I think sometimes we forget how many pleasant transactions take place every day with that same company. I was offering a different perspective on the same company. I have never been treated as poorly as Francois was. Two different stories. Two totally different experiences.

Is his story more valuable than mine? I think not. Would I want to fly where he did? Not now I wouldn't.

Posted by: nate at February 19, 2007 04:29 PM

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