May 31, 2012

Disclosure and Trust

Merriam-Webster defines disclosure as “the act or an instance of disclosing.” The example sentence reads: “We demand full disclosure of the facts.” If it all sounds like courtroom speak that has nothing to do with garden blogging: think again.

The Need for a Disclosure Policy

Back when IZEA was known as PayPerPost, the need for a disclosure policy on garden blogs wasn't that great. Few garden bloggers were doing product reviews, going on all expenses paid trips, and selling posts on their blog to the lowest bidder. The backlash against these practices lead to IZEA launching the disclosure policy generator.

Recently, instances like Fern Richardson’s attempt at deception when Trey called her out for not disclosing that her participation in the Garden2Blog event was paid for lead to a lot of garden blogger drama. A lot of garden writers and bloggers were more upset with the calling out than with what she tried to pull. Instances like this go to show that we might need something similar to IZEA's disclosure policy for garden bloggers.

I don’t know what it is about the culture of professional writers, but they seem to have a hard time with transparency and citation of sources. But that’s a rant for another day.

How to be Transparent

Transparency isn’t something that’s just for professional writers. I don’t consider myself to be a professional writer, but I like to handle my garden blog in a professional manner. If a company sends me something to review or try in my garden I make a mention of it being free in the post. It’s that simple.

You don’t need to perform literary gymnastics and write a disclosure statement that kinda, sorta sounds like you got something for free or had someone pay for you to travel and put you up for an event.

“X sent me Y for free to review/grow,” “X paid for my trip to Y” within the body of your post would suffice. If you don’t fancy yourself a wordsmith you can borrow the verbiage of other disclosure statements from around the Internet. Keep it simple.

Why Transparency is Important

For me, transparency is important because I don’t like to be taken for a fool. It is a pet peeve of mine. I try to maintain my blog in a manner that doesn’t treat anyone who comes across it as a fool. I, as a person, deserve honesty and I think people who read my blog do too.

If you’re begrudgingly adding disclosure policies to posts to head off a Negative Nancy, or to protect yourself from criticism you should stop and see what’s wrong with your moral compass because it's broken. Also, take a moment to examine why you think so poorly of your readers.


Doug Green published a post recently that I think you should read. While he doesn’t mention any names, if you’re active on Twitter or Facebook you can probably guess which garden bloggers and which brands he’s talking about.

I’d like to close this post with a commentary about some of the garden blogger drama on social media from the past year that I didn’t get a chance to address here. My feelings are succinctly expressed by “suck it,” but I think are more humors expressed by paraphrasing Cybil Shepherd in the made for television movie, Martha, Inc.

“I’m not here to lower myself to your standards. I’m here to raise you up to mine.”

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