Before addressing the topic at hand, a little bit of background.
During the final installment of my interview with Steve Farnsworth on corporate blogging, Paul Roberts weighed in with some good questions.
This triggered the clever idea on Steve’s part to engage others as well as himself in answering these questions, one per week over the next four weeks.
As a result, I’m joining Steve, Todd Defren, and Paul Roberts in this exercise.
As they say at Cirque du Soleil, “Que le spectacle commence!”
Do I believe ghost blogging is ethical?
It ultimately comes down to who’s providing the “thinking” behind the content.
Let’s say there’s a blog called “Luigi’s Fish and Slips.”
If a writer interviews Luigi about the halibut that got away and crafts the first draft of a post which then goes to Luigi who tweaks and finalizes the copy, no problem.
We’ve essentially followed this process in writing posts for clients with the philosophy that our role is to help the blogger transfer his/her thinking to the written page; albeit in digital form.
I’m sure there are some born-again social media-ites who feel we should be branded with a “U” on our chests for unauthentic.
To those my response would be, do you think President Obama is unauthentic because a team of writers create his speeches?
Of course not.
Whether or not you agree with his politics, you assume that the content of the speech indeed reflects his thinking, not the thinking of the speech writers.
It’s the brainpower that counts, whether we’re talking about President Obama’s speech or a blog post from Luigi the fish monger.
I’ll grant you one exception to the rule.
If the blog somehow touches on the craft of writing, then that’s a different story (couldn’t resist the pun).
You can’t have someone ghostwriting posts for The New York Times’ “On Language” writer Ben Zimmer. That would be unethical because part of the brainpower comes from the actual writing.
I also believe if there is a single name on the blog like the Ben Zimmer property at The New York Times and he does get a helping hand from others, it’s a good idea to disclose this tidbit.
Which begs the question, at what point does a “helping hand” call for disclosure?
Patricia Sellers at Fortune pens the blog called “Postcards“. She has a “helper” in Jessica Shambora who periodically enjoys a byline on the Postcard property. It seems safe to assume that Shambora handles some legwork and perhaps even some writing on the posts that carry the Sellers byline.
If this is the case, Sellers probably should share this information in the “About the Author” section. Still, it doesn’t trouble me because I assume the posts that carry the Sellers byline deliver Sellers’ thinking.
Needless to say, plenty of gray matter surrounds this topic of ghost blogging.
I’m sure you’ll find diversity in viewpoints and perhaps even another vying for that scarlet “U.”