Blog Disclosure Policy: Family Travel Logue

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What the heck IS a “blogger,” anyway? Am I just an online writer? Am I a journalist? Are there any rules for my writing behavior, here in the Webby Wild West?

I think it’s important for anyone reading this blog to understand exactly where I’m coming from, so you’ll know how to judge my work.

I do consider myself a quasi-journalist, mostly because my Mom was an actual journalist and I was brought up understanding concepts like “off the record,” “on the record,” backing up your opinions where possible, quoting people carefully and completely and finding alternative opinions where possible.

But that’s just me. Blogging allows a lot of individual perspectives, and that’s why I like it. Many of my fellow bloggers do NOT consider themselves journalists, and that’s fine for them, on their blog.

So, expect me to be honest and truthful here, and tell you right up front when something is my opinion, and when something is as factual as I can prove it.

Let’s talk about freebies. This is important. Some bloggers say that whatever the “rules” are about disclosing freebies/good deals/free trips, such rules don’t apply to bloggers. Fine for them, but not fine for me, and not fine according to the Federal Trade Commission and search engines like Google (which generally penalize paid-for content.)

If you’re paid to say nice stuff, that’s advertising. If you get free stuff and are asked to say nice things about it, that’s advertising. There are rules that apply to advertising, so you’d better know when you’re doing it (the blogger) and when you’re seeing it (the consumer.)

Here’s where the Family Travel Guide comes in. I write about travel. Because I have an audience (thanks, readers!) sometimes I’m given products to look at, and sometimes I’m given free travel to go check someplace out and write about it.

I feel kinda weird about all this.

I’d rather pay for my own stuff, and then I can totally own my opinions about it. I’m bossy that way. Other bloggers don’t have this angst. That’s great for them, but this is me.

Here is my policy:

*** If I’m given free stuff to review (and I’m really not into product reviews, so don’t send anything) I’ll tell you I got free stuff when I review it.  If it makes sense to do so, I’ll then probably give it away. This doesn’t apply to things like travel socks. I don’t think you want my used socks. Jussayin’.  For reviews, don’t come here, go to the BootsnAll Travel Gear Blog or my friend Tim Leffel’s Practical Travel Gear blog.

*** If I’m given a guidebook to review, I’ll review it and then usually give it away through a blog post giveaway.  I won’t give it away if I’ve gotten it all ratty by writing in it or spilling things on it during a trip.

***  Press trips/familiarization tours/fam tours are very common in the travel industry.  Tourism organizations bring groups of writers to their destination to check it out, and hopefully write about it.  I’ve been invited on a few of these trips, and while my experiences were positive, free travel is not really my style.   If I go, I disclose the fact that the trip was paid for in every post I write.

I have a lot of strong opinions on the “perks” of free travel. I’ve blogged about it in two posts on one of my other blogs:   What do new FTC blogging rules mean for press trips and fam tours? and Are blogger fam trips a good idea, or are they Jurassic PR?

Thanks again for reading and supporting this blog since February 2006;  your comments and thoughtful input are inspiring.  I hope to live up to your expectations.