Essentially, Wal-Mart is now using bloggers in its PR efforts. They've identified bloggers who seem to be sympathetic to the company's policies, and they are feeding them exclusive news and information which the bloggers are then regurgitating on their blogs. It raises a lot of questions - are there standards for citing sources? Is it required? Is it optional? What rules apply in the blogosphere?
The folks at Instapundit say that if you reprint something, you should say where it came from.
Glenn Reynolds, the founder of Instapundit.com, one of the oldest blogs on the Web, said that even in the blogosphere, which is renowned for its lack of rules, a basic tenet applies: "If I reprint something, I say where it came from. A blog is about your voice, it seems to me, not somebody else's."
(lifted from the aforementioned New York Times article; further quotes from that article are in this font/color)
Mona Williams, a Wal-Mart company spokeswoman, was also quoted in the Times article saying:
"As more and more Americans go to the Internet to get information from varied, credible, trusted sources, Wal-Mart is committed to participating in that online conversation."
So blogs are now considered credible, trusted sources.
I'm not a journalist, but I do consider myself to be a good writer, and as such, I believe that sources should be cited. Something Mrs. Smith taught me in my senior composition class back in high school. So it was particularly troubling to see this later in the article:
"I usually do not reveal where I get a tip or a lead on a story," he said, adding that journalists often do not disclose where they get ideas for stories either."
Oh, so now bloggers are journalists. Do you see where I'm going with this?
Regurgitating information without attribution is not acceptable. If it were, do you think Wal-Mart would have distributed this advisory:
"Wal-Mart has warned bloggers against lifting text from the e-mail it sends them. After apparently noticing the practice, Mr. Manson asked them to "resist the urge," because "I'd be sick if someone ripped you because they noticed a couple of bloggers with nearly identical posts."
Wal-Mart. The company that cares.
I don't have a particular stand on the Wal-Mart/Good or Wal-Mart/Evil issue. I'm just intrigued by the whole information explosion and my inability to know which way is up.
P.S. Here are some of the related links that ran with the story in case you are interested - why will I not be surprised if great chunks of the original Times article are copied and pasted here (with or without attribution)?
Crazy Politico's Rantings