27/07/2015
Spot the difference.

Words by

Bianca O'Neill

There are a couple of perks to being a blogger, I’ll admit. You get to go to fun events and drink champers for free. You get to go to fashion week, and if you’re lucky, you might just nab a front row seat. And occasionally you might get a freebie or two, sent unsolicited.

It’s a well known fact that there are two kinds of bloggers: ones who make a business out of it (we all remember that leaked price list for a single instagram post for Ministry of Talent bloggers like SFB) and the ones who do it simply for the love of it. 

I’m in the latter camp. I make my living as a freelance journalist and blogging is my escape from the politics and product placement of professional writing in 2015. And sometimes, as a blogger, even unimportant me gets freebies. 

But on my small scale, even I know there’s a difference between a sneaky free plug for something cool I’ve been sent, and all-out-freebie-soliciting in order to fund your not-so-glam-in-real-life lifestyle. 

Recently I was bouncing around on Twitter and came across a very popular fashion blogger’s account. It was filled with relentless public tweets soliciting free shiz. “I’m heading to NYC – @bighotel, @biggerhotel, @veryexpensivehotel: Any suggestions for a place to stay?” Of course, said hotels responded with offers for free accom. 

It didn’t stop there: “I need new luggage: Who can help?” “I want to eat out in London: Where should I eat @restaurant, @otherexpensiverestaurant?”

The succubus is strong in this one.

I mean, it’s one thing to approach hotels if you’re writing a travel story – and it’s quite another to shamelessly troll three hotel brands in one tweet for free shit just because you don’t want to pay.

The funniest thing of all about this whole hilarious Twitter account is that it’s a completely different beast to the corresponding Instagram account which, admittedly, has an almost 50 times larger audience. Said Instagram account is filled with classy, subtle captions beneath #travelinspo pics, chronicling a #lifewelltravelled – basically, enviable life-porn.

But do you know what I couldn’t find on said Instagram account? I couldn’t find one mention of the freebies… ne’er a “guest of xx hotel” mention in sight. Plenty of mentions of an (assumed) advertorial for a fashion brand, however.

This kind of blatant flaunting of journalistic ethics is exactly why us bloggers are shamed publicly, held to the spotlight for our lack of disclosure.

Call yourself a magazine? You MUST disclose your freebies and not accept gifts from interested parties intent on swaying your opinions. You MUST say you were a guest at a hotel or on a flight. 

Call yourself a blogger? Well, that’s a whole other story.

I, for one, want to join the call for a better standard of ethics in blogging across the board. Good bloggers hashtag their posts with #sponsored or explicitly mention they are a ‘guest’ – not a single, unexplained tag. Such murky territory is ethically dangerous ground. 

If you want to be a part of the media world, a set of strict ethics comes with it. You have a duty to your readers to present an honest account of your work. 

Come on bloggers – we can be better. We can be more professional. 

After all, it’s really no wonder no one in print media takes us seriously when our contemporaries have embarrassingly shameless Twitter accounts like this.

Follow Bianca’s confusing fashion journey over at @alphabetponymag

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