I’m coming out of my self-imposed July Blog-cation to comment of the events that have transpired over the last two days. If you haven’t been keeping up, Orac at Respectful Insolence has the full story. Long story short – Science Blogs released a new blog, Frontiers in Food, sponsored by PepsiCo and written by PepsiCo employees. They did so without consulting with, or even informing their bloggers ahead of time. The Science Blogger community is largely outraged, and several notable bloggers have quit the network, citing their credibility being compromised.
This raises a larger issue among all science blogs, not just those that are a part of ScienceBlogs.com. How do you know what science blogs are honest and what are biased? The answer is, of course, that you can’t know. For that matter, we are all biased, we all have conflicts of interest. So how do you know if a blogger is talking from their heart or from their wallet? How do you know if Deep Sea News hasn’t been paid off by Planktos, if Southern Fried Science isn’t in the pockets of the Japanese whaling industry, if Ya Like Dags? is a secret front for shark finning?
It’s about trust. You trust us, or you don’t. Blogs are more personal than conventional journalism. Readers get an insight into not just the subject, but the author as well. You decide whether or not to trust us based on not just the information we present but the connections we form with out readership. That’s why we make sure to correct ourselves when we make mistakes and admit when we are wrong. It ultimately comes down to the blogger, not the network they’re on or who else blogs under the same domain.
But the network matters too. The network lends credibility. Informally, many readers who trust our opinions also trust that we read well informed, honest blogs as well. Our linking to another blog is a tacit approval of their content, at least in relation to what we’ve linked to. For independent blogs, this network evolves naturally as we associate with other bloggers, but for bloggers within a network, the tacit assumption is that all blogs within the network are of the same quality.
Which is why the implementation of this new blog doesn’t just compromise ScienceBlogs.com blogs, but all bloggers who have built networks with ScienceBlogs.com.
These bloggers have left the Science Blog Network. They are awesome bloggers and deserve a read.
- Blake Stacey
- Brian Switek
- David Dobbs
- Alex Wild
- and the wonderful Rebecca Skloot
~Southern Fried Scientist