Among this week's readings is a news story from Business Week, "Wal-Mart vs. the Blogosphere", which looked at how a blog supposed written by a couple which was a fan of the retail chain ended up being unmasked as a corporate public relations tactic:
It all started last month, when a folksy blog called Wal-Marting Across America was set up. The site featured the musings of a couple known only as Jim and Laura as they drove cross country in an RV, and included regular interviews with Wal-Mart workers, who were dependably happy about the company and their working conditions. BusinessWeek.com wrote the first exposé about the blog. The story shot down speculation that Jim and Laura weren't real people, identifying the woman as Laura St. Claire, a freelance writer and an employee at the U.S. Treasury department. But it also disclosed that Wal-Mart was paying plenty for the couple's support, including money for renting the RV, gas, and fees for writing the blog (see BusinessWeek.com, 10/9/06, "Wal-Mart's Jim and Laura: The Real Story").
This certainly touched on a point often faced in the South Carolina political blogosphere, where a number of bloggers also are also employed in the political field:
- Adam Fogle, who writes The Palmetto Scoop, is employed by Richard Quinn and Associates. That might explain his regular praise of Henry McMaster as well his being the only person in the state willing to say good things about Senator Lindsay Graham. Both Graham and McMaster are Quinn clients. Fogle also enjoys dishing out shots at a competing consulting firm via The Scoop.
- Wes Donehue, who doesn't blog as much, works with the Senate Republican Caucus, Senator Jim DeMint, and is a partner in Under The Power Lines, a political netroots consulting firm. It's no secret that he praises both, but he's also got a lot of useful insights about the net and politics on his personal blog as well.
- Will Folks, who runs what is probably the state's most-influential site, FITSNews, has worked with candidates, including Governor Sanford (as well as worked on Sanford's staff), but nobody seems to know how his bills are paid these days.
In the interests of full disclosure, I've been involved in politics for over two decades across the state, in campaign and Republican Party roles from grassroots to managerial. When I speak via this blog, it's as an interested citizen and veteran activist. Not only that, but the process of exploring issues and individuals has taught me a lot and allowed me to make a lot of new friends - from ordinary citizens who've read my blog to veteran politicos - and that's all the reward I need to keep writing.
My paycheck comes from a construction company where I am the Corporate Communication manager, and am also involved in human resources, safety and governmental relations. Much of my company's bread and butter is in highway construction these days, which is publicly funded. I've opted to keep such subject material off my blog, to avoid the appearance that I'm blogging for hire.
By knowing what I do for a living, you get the assurance that I'm not an insider trying to promote a client, but being on the outside means I don't always get the big story leads that those who work in the field might, so there's a trade-off.
As long as you know what our angle is up front, you can make your own decisions about what you're reading. That's the kind of transparency and disclosure you deserve to have from those who are trying to inform and influence in the blogosphere.
By the way - thank you for reading.