Sound and Fury Signifying Wal-Mart

There’s considerable sturm und drang around the blogosphere today about Wal-Mart’s blogger relations program, and the related article in the New York Times:

Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.

But the strategy raises questions about what bloggers, who pride themselves on independence, should disclose to readers. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, has been forthright with bloggers about the origins of its communications, and the company and its public relations firm, Edelman, say they do not compensate the bloggers.

But some bloggers have posted information from Wal-Mart, at times word for word, without revealing where it came from.

This is almost a non-story. After all, the media gets the majority of its content through ‘tips’, ‘story ideas’ or ‘media releases’ from the government, corporations and non-profits. Stories are written, and the ‘sources’ are rarely revealed. However, even the lowliest reporter has enough integrity to rephrase a press release or email.

It would be a non-story, and would never make the Times, if these pro-Wal-Mart bloggers weren’t too stupid to publish Wal-Mart’s emails verbatim. That’s just plain idiotic, and reflects a lack of integrity. This isn’t Wal-Mart’s fault, nor is it Edelman’s. It’s the bloggers themselves.

For more on this, read Richard Edelman’s post and Dan Gillmor. I’m a little surprised that Steve Rubel, Edelman employee, hasn’t commented, but maybe he’s wisely keeping a low profile on the issue.

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