May 11, 2004

Disclosure

On Friday, I took the girls to Pizzeria Uno’s at the Providence Place Mall. I needed a beer to go with my fish and chips, and after looking over the selections I settled on a pint of Sam Adams Summer Ale.

I was surprised by the flavor. On tap it was better than I remembered from last year (when I’d only had it in the bottle). I couldn’t remember whether it was a white beer or not (it is) and I started to think about how to describe it to you all, because I thought it would be worth a taste for any and all beer lovers in the audience. The presence of lemon and whatever spices they’re using were a refreshing enhancement. The beer is well-named.

But then something occurred to me. Am I being dishonest if I don’t give you the whole story?

Would it really be OK for me to be declaring on my weblog, “I was going to have some Guinness or Bass, but then I went with the Sam Adams specialty beer — the Summer Ale. It’s great! You should all go out and try it on tap!” It’s not that I have a problem recommending an alcoholic beverage (it’s everyone’s personal responsibility to decide whether they ought to be drinking). No, the sticky point is that I happen to own a miniscule number of shares in the Boston Beer Company. I bought them when Sam Adams went public long ago, and the stock has never gone anywhere. Well, I guess it went down, but you know what I mean.

I’m not a professional journalist. And I consider my weblog to be somewhere between news and friendly conversation. I don’t take it as seriously as some. I joke around. But I do try to give you the truth, whether it is about news events, or my opinion.

And I am biased toward Sam Adams. But it’s not because of the stock, it’s because I like the stuff. I am more inclined to drink it than, say, Coors or Miller.

Remember that story about the Disney Company and Michael Moore last week? Should I have disclosed that I own Disney stock? It hadn’t even occurred to me at that time. We bought one share of Disney when we got married because (at the time) stockholders got into a special club that received discounts. The share price was less than the club membership, so we invested rather than buying in.

Needless to say, Disney does not consider us major shareholders. In fact, they frequently ask if we’d like them to buy the stock back. I think they’re sick of doing the paperwork.

It may seem silly to even consider I might be trying to manipulate you to manipulate a stock price. But I remember the Motley Fool webboards back in the 90’s. There were a number of people on there giving stock “advise” for the purpose of inflating or depressing stock prices. Yes, they were discussing stocks, so that is a little different. But it still seems to be a relevant question.

Many of you don’t know me personally. So you have to just have to take my word for it when I tell you this:

I am trying to influence your opinion sometimes with my weblog. I’m trying to make you agree with me. Sometimes I’m just trying to inform you, but really, when it comes to things like the election I really don’t want you to vote for what I consider to be an inept administration that has cost this country lives and money in excess of what is reasonable. And that’s just the high profile stuff that they’ve done. When it comes to products, sometimes I like products. If I do, I tell you about it.

Aside from the November 2004 election, I’m mostly just fooling around. And since this weblog is somewhat of a 2-way street, you can call me on pretty much anything. But I am trying to give you accurate stories, and an accurate representation of my opinion. I do feel like I need to post corrections when I find out I was wrong in an earlier post.

What do you think about weblog disclosure? Do you even care where a person is coming from when you read their weblog? Do you look for an “about me” page to gain insight into the author? I don’t have one of those, but the badges on my main page tell part of the story.

Do you just take everything you read with a large grain of salt?

Posted by James at May 11, 2004 10:35 AM
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Comments

I automatically assume every weblog is biased and I tend to read the weblogs of people whose bias I share. Not very open minded of me, but there you go.

I wouldn't worry about weblog disclosure in a forum dedicated to your opinions. There's no reason for you to maintain the pretense of impartiality.

Posted by: Mike at May 11, 2004 10:43 AM

Now that you have admitted to being fallible, I may need to re-examine all of my beliefs, which I have stolen wholesale from you!

Seriously, I somewhat care where the person is coming from, but that seldoms influences my opinion of the person's credibility, which varies from topic to topic.

Posted by: Julie at May 11, 2004 11:27 AM

You're my friend, and I have a pretty good idea of where you stand on issues, so I know what I'm likely to find when I come to your site.

On top of that, this is a blog. If I wanted impartiality, I'd go to NPR, the Washington Post, the NYT, the Boston Globe, or similar respected news outlets.

Posted by: Patti M. at May 11, 2004 12:28 PM

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