ScienceBlogs has launched a new food science blog with content written by PepsiCo.
I’d find the utter and complete violation of any semblance of journalistic and publishing ethics utterly laughable, except for one thing: dozens of good people have put years of work into ScienceBlogs.com, most of them paid little if at all, and now — with one stupid decision — their publisher has eroded their credibility by association. That sucks.
I left a comment on the AstroTurfScienceBlog. Screenshot below as I don’t expect it to see the light of day.
I’m really glad I declined ScienceBlogs’ offer to host Creek Running North a couple years back. I mean, damn.
Updated to add: Unsurprisingly, a number of bloggers are considering suspending or closing their ScienceBlogs.com blogs if the decision to host Pepsico’s paid blog isn’t rescinded. What is surprising to me is the number of “SciBlings” who seem to be adopting a “wait and see” attitude about it. They’re not all as dense as this regrettable person seems to be: In fact, some usually very smart people seem to be under the impression that this is all something new, justifying a fair-minded, “wait and see” empiricism.
If I may: empiricism does not mean neglecting your due diligence to read prior literature. This is nothing new. I recognize that scientists who write have several justifiable bones to pick with journalists, but in this instance those scientists apparently have a big, basic, non-rocket-science lesson they desperately need to learn from said journalists. That lesson: never let the firewall between advertising and editorial drop. Never. Not for a second. Not for a page. If you do, it means you’re not serious about what you’re doing. It means you’re not working for a credible publishing organization. Even mediocre, burned-out hack journalists get this, and obey it almost involuntarily. Yes, there is troubling advertiser influence, especially in these days of increasing corporatization of publishing. It’s hard to resist sometimes, particularly if your publisher is a sleazebag. But even the worst sleazebags generally keep editorial and advertising distinct. If your goal is to better the state of science journalism using the new, more democratic tools available these days, tossing out a century and a half of painfully-worked-out journalistic codes of ethics is not the right place to start.