"Knowing that" being the key.
It's been suggested by some in this "business" (poor fools; they keep trying to establish rules) that bloggers like these should put a disclaimer on their weblogs denoting the fact that they take money to write their opinions (I'm sure they'd prefer it said that they take money and have opinions). Whatever.
In my case, not only would I not accept cash from any politician's campaign, I even removed Adsense from this site long ago because I didn't want to cultivate the notion that my opinions were being tossed into the arena with an underlying intention of profiting from the effort. (There are also legal 1st Amendment implications, in my mind).
Along these lines, the Roanoke Times this morning calls attention to the practice of paying bloggers to blog, and sees dangers lurking exactly where I do:
Bloggers on the takeI've met Josh and Jon. Both seem to be upstanding human beings. And I'm sure both will tell you that their opinions are not skewed by the cash that flows their way as they write that which politicians want them to write. I believe them. I think.
Journalists, real journalists, follow strict rules about conflicts of interest. They do not take money or gifts from groups they might cover. They also maintain a wall between news, opinion and advertising functions.
That is not the case with many bloggers. In Virginia, for example, Lowell Feld, the man behind the liberal blog RaisingKaine.com, is getting special treatment from Democrats. They will seat him on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in August as an "embedded" blogger.
Feld has had a cozy relationship with Democrats for a while, working as a paid consultant for some of their candidates.
Such relationships are increasingly common among bloggers looking to make a buck. They accept money or other perks from a candidate or party and then write about them.
[M]oney has a tendency to taint objectivity. That does not disqualify bloggers from a place in the media spectrum, but those who rely on them for their news and commentary should keep in mind the potential conflicts when they choose whom to trust. (link)
But there is that nagging appearance of impropriety. These guys take money to write that which candidates want written.
I think of the married man who jumps in the sack with a hooker but later tells his wife, after being caught, that "it meant nothing." Please. It meant something.
That in itself calls for full disclosure.
To their readers, I say: Caveat emptor. To the professional bloggers and their political patrons, I say: Caveat venditor.
At least here at From On High, you'll never have to worry about getting your - or a politician's - money's worth.
I sleep well at night because of it.