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Tuesday, March 07, 2006
NY Times Runs Hit Piece on Bloggers

They try to imply that some bloggers are simply regurgitating the Wal-Mart line. And in fairness, one blogger gives them a little bit to work with:

Brian Pickrell, a blogger, recently posted a note on his Web site attacking state legislation that would force Wal-Mart Stores to spend more on employee health insurance. "All across the country, newspaper editorial boards — no great friends of business — are ripping the bills," he wrote.

It was the kind of pro-Wal-Mart comment the giant retailer might write itself. And, in fact, it did.

Several sentences in Mr. Pickrell's Jan. 20 posting — and others from different days — are identical to those written by an employee at one of Wal-Mart's public relations firms and distributed by e-mail to bloggers.

If you look at the January 20th post, you can see that Pickrell did indeed include those words in his post, and they are not highlighted as quoted material. Not good form, especially since most of the post consists of pull quotes from editorials. Brian responds here that he did use the quote but it came from an email from another blogger. That to me is a distinction without a difference. If it's not highlighted as a quote, it's supposed to be your own words.

Our buddy Crazy Politico gets a mention:

Copies of e-mail messages that a Wal-Mart representative sent to bloggers were made available to The New York Times by Bob Beller, who runs a blog called Crazy Politico's Rantings. Mr. Beller, a regular Wal-Mart shopper who frequently defends the retailer on his blog, said the company never asked that the messages be kept private.

From what I can see, the messages were mostly PR-type stuff. I get emails like this all the time. I'll use the material if it's interesting. But I always put it in my own words except for quotes which are plainly identified as such.

Marathon Pundit has been all over this story; apparently an AFL-CIO weblog falsely claimed that the story would reveal that the bloggers had been paid to write sympathetically about Wal-Mart. As you can see, the Times' article makes no such claims, and the blog that the AFL-CIO referenced, Marquette Warrior (which was the first to break this story on the blogs), also did not mention money at all.

Also see Jack Lewis' take on this story.

PR Linkers does a roundup of the various reactions to the story. Most surprising: Atrios/Eschaton.
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