Siobhain Butterworth, the Guardian’s readers’ editor (read: ombudsman), examines the expectation of blog readers not to be spoken to by ghost writers, contrasting this with newspaper readers, who, she says, understand that pieces by pols and sometimes witnesses are often known to be ghostwritten. She quotes me and here’s what I emailed to her:
I don’t define blogs as content. I prefer to define blogs as people in conversation. The link is what enables that conversation. The link connects people and what they have to say. So a blog is presumed to have a blogger behind it: a person, a human voice. Granted, many of those people are hidden behind anonymity or pseudonymity. But they are still people. So when we find out that the person we are talking with behind the curtain is not a person but a PR agent or committee, it immediately robs the conversation of credibility and trust. It makes a lie of the dialogue. It is an attempt to game us, to defraud us.
It is the belief of many of my friends in the blogosphere that what sets it apart is precisely that we are hearing authentic human voices and not ghost- and flack-writen spin and that we have the opportunity to converse with these people. The internet, after all, is a conversation.
I do think there’s a desire to put the ghost writer out of business. And I’ve done my ghostwriting myself. I wrote others’ first-person stories in magazines (as the “as told to” cloak) and every time I’m stuck writing a press release (something else that should be put out of business) I’ve had to make up quotes for folks. We may all know that this happens but it doesn’t mean we like it. And I do think blogs are a reaction to that false voice.