That may be so, but there is a limit to what even full transparency can accomplish. While conferences like the ones Bly cites are indeed rainmakers for the media industry, such events are quite a bit different than renting out space in a science/journalism community that values impartiality and abhors corporate influence.
[Update, 9:30 a.m.: In the comments section of Paul Raeburn’s post at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, there is an interesting discussion about previous “corporate blogs,” as Bly put it in his letter sponsored by GE and Shell. Stacey and another current Scienceblogs.com member, Josh Rosenau, think the companies had less control over those blogs, but that seems uncertain. Additionally, NPR’s Ira Flatow offered to host defecting bloggers at his Science Friday Web site.]
Science journalist and author Carl Zimmer, whose Discover blog, The Loom, once resided at ScienceBlogs.com, took Bly to task for ruining years of hard work:
What I find particularly galling about this whole affair is that bloggers who don’t want to associate themselves with this kind of nonsense have to go through the hassle of leaving Scienceblogs and setting up their blog elsewhere. The technical steps involved may be wonderfully easy now (export files, open account on Wordpress, import), but the social steps remain tedious. Take it from me, someone who has moved his blog three times over the past six years: your readers lose your trail, and it takes a long time for Google to start helping them. These folks did nothing to deserve this irritation.
Zimmer is also keeping a running list of Sciencblogs.com defectors. If begins to grow, we’ll see how Bly responds. One hopes that he and his colleagues at Seed Media Group were sitting around a table late Wednesday night re-thinking their approach.
Fundraising is a legitimate problem in the industry today, but a smart play would be to put the Pepsi blog on hold and reach out to bloggers for ideas. It would be a tragic shame to break up an honest, insightful, and widely respected community of writers for something as foolish as Food Frontiers.
[Update, 10:30 a.m.: Bly just announced that Scienceblogs.com has taken down the Food Frontiers blog, writing, “We apologize for what some of you viewed as a violation of your immense trust in ScienceBlogs. Although we (and many of you) believe strongly in the need to engage industry in pursuit of science-driven social change, this was clearly not the right way.”
Appropriately, Bly encouraged more debate on the matter, adding “How do companies who seek genuine dialogue with this community engage? We’ll open this challenge up to everyone on SB and beyond in the coming days so that we can all find the right solution.” The comments string following the post is already filling up with interesting suggestions and ideas worth taking a look at.]