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Relax, bloggers. The media are not out to get you

Submitted by on Wednesday, 18 November 2009 No Comment

I suppose it’s human nature for defenses to go up in the face of criticism.

But still, it’s perplexing when those being criticized – or even mildly questioned – still are lashing out almost two months after the event. And not just about the event in question, but about virtually any mainstream media story or blog post or Tweet that questions mommy bloggers.

Yes, I’m talking about the Nestle blogger confab in October and the aftermath that continues this week.

Synopsis for those who haven’t followed along: Big company holds an “event” in Los Angeles, bringing in bloggers from across the country, putting them up in nice hotels and paying their airfare.

Controversy erupts when the bloggers start tweeting from the event. Breast-feeding advocates who object to numerous Nestle actions over the years – as well as others who want to call Nestle to task on issues ranging from child labor to polluted water – tart enter the Twitter flow to draw attention to their positions and objections.

They’re called protesters, folks, and they existed long before Twitter came along. Before the Internet even, God bless them and God love them, because if not for protesters I’d be sipping tea and eating crumpets in the morning instead of slamming French roast.

Yes, some of them were rude. But, then, so were some folks in the Nestle corner.

That anyone was surprised that protesters interrupted the Nestle lovefest is, well, surprising. The same thing happened back in the spring when Stouffer’s, which is a Nestle brand, held a similar blogger session. Why weren’t the Nestle bloggers prepared for it before they landed in California? Why was the Nestle public relations and marketing staff standing around flat-footed, which left the unpaid bloggers flapping in the cyberbreeze.

Fast forward to mid-November, when bloggers who were at the Nestle fete still are upset about what they viewed as rough treatment, not only on Twitter the week of the event but in media coverage since. The latest gripe is with a Los Angeles Times piece published Sunday: “As food makers lavish trips and goodies on parenting bloggers, critics see a shrewd marketing ploy,” the online subhead said.

And you know what? I would agree 10,000 percent that it’s an incredibly shrewd marketing ploy on the part of companies. Invite a dozen and a half or so bloggers, pay for their hotels, plane tickets and meals. In exchange, they’ll tweet, Whrrl, Facebook and blog your message. It won’t reach nearly as many people as an ad would, but it won’t cost the company nearly as much either. And your message will have a patina of authenticity because it’s coming from an authentic parent.

If bloggers are OK with that, more power to them as long as they disclose their relationships. Personally, I prefer to be paid for my work. Expenses for working at an off-site location are a given, not a perq.

Am I jealous? No, because I can’t think of a major food corporation I’d willingly align myself with. Though I’m glad that Nestle maintains the only peanut-free chocolate plant in North America, I won’t be happy until it and all other manufacturers cut the “natural flavors” and “spices” crap and tell me exactly what’s in the package.

Am I “grasping at anything” to take down bloggers who have proven that they don’t need a degree or resume to write, as some bloggers assert media are doing. No, but I am irritated that so many people willing to write for free have devalued a market that used to offer a sustainable income for many people. Not an overly generous one, but one you could survive on.

Are the media threatened – oh, you bet your boots they are, but mommy bloggers are only a teeny tiny part of their problem. The bulk of the threat goes back a debt-riddled, technophobic, profit-wise-and-future-foolish decade or more.

So can we please drop the “they’re just jealous” conspiracy theories and face the real issue: People who want to affiliate with corporations but who don’t want to own everything that comes with those affiliations.

In this country, at least, part of what comes with it is going to be protests, criticism and questions. I view all of those as opportunities, not as a threats.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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