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The latest debate about paid Tweets from celebrities has made me question, not for the first time, whether writing well crafted - and, it has to be said, factually accurate - articles on my clients' behalf simply makes me a mercenary in the war of words, or whether my professional credentials provide both them and myself with a credibility that differs from the celebs?
The fact that a certain Mr Dogg is capable of commanding more in a single Tweet than most professional journalists will receive for a slew of 1500-word articles only adds grist to the mill. My clients, along with those of many other professional content writers, pay for our services partly as a matter of time expediency, but also because they know that we can produce copy on their behalf that will appeal to their target audiences at a more consistent level than content they can write themselves.
Does that make them, or me, bad people? Does the fact that the content I produce in their name appear in blogs, social media outlets or even the traditional media smack of dishonesty?
Any journalist worth their salt should be able to report the views of an individual or organisation accurately and, where required, in a way that reflects their tone. In my view there is no such thing as a totally objective piece of writing. Every journalist or writer has an agenda, even if it is not their own, and that is even more the case with "citizen" journalists. Otherwise what would be the motivation for producing the content in the first place? More often than not there is a commercial benefit of some kind - even if it's plainly to sell advertising for the newspaper, website or broadcast outlet.
Do we really accept that 'the public' is so naïve that they don't at least raise half an eyebrow to what they read or hear, even if they ultimately suppress the urge to question the power of celebrity? Where is the line drawn between journalistically crafted content - whether print, audio, video, text or Tweet - and mercenary marketeering? Is it simply the point at which someone decides to stand up - or not - and say "I'm getting paid for this" or "I'm involved"? In which case the war is lost - because for the majority of those linked to any form of web or media content, we are all simply mercenary foot-soldiers trudging into battle.
Published 13th January, 2011