Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And Lead Us Not Into Temptation...

In my last post, which was about the use of business jargon, Mrs Trefusis commented with this sound piece of advice:

'My job is full of vile, lazy business-speak, and reading a document full of it makes a part of my soul shrivel and die, so I resolved to dip into the KJV whenever a particularly horrid example lands on my desk.'

I couldn't agree more. Compare the poetry of "For now we see through a glass, darkly" to the functional prose of the Good News Bible's "What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror".

Obviously there are sound theological reasons why new versions of the Bible are printed, but from a literary point of view they are usually disappointing. I'd like to see a Seamus Heaney version.

By coincidence, later that day, the BBC website published this fascinating article on the King James Version of the Bible and how it has endured to the present day. It included this list of 10 phrases still in common usage, 400 years on:

  • Turned the world upside down Acts 17:6
  • God forbid Romans 3:4
  • Take root 2 Kings 19:30
  • The powers that be Romans 13:1
  • Filthy lucre 1 Timothy 3:3
  • No peace for the wicked Isaiah 57: 21
  • A fly in the ointment Ecclesiastes 10:1
  • Wheels within wheels Ezekiel 10:10
  • The blind leading the blind Matthew 15:13
  • Feet of clay Daniel 2:33

Perhaps some people would also like to remind me of another quote from the King James Bible:

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

This is a reference to my last post, which was sponsored by the British Library, via a company called Ebuzzing. Apparently, it has caused concern in some quarters that I have crossed the line and monetised (now there's an ugly word) my blog.

Frankly, I'd love to be able to earn a bit of cash from blogging. Last September I ran out of money and got to the stage where I was emptying out jam jars of coins and rifling through the pockets of old jackets looking for cash, just so that I would be able to buy food. So when emails arrived offering me cash or free products if I wrote a promotional blog post, I was sorely tempted.

However, I have always declined because a blog should always be about belief and passion, independent of any commercial agenda. Compromise that integrity and people will soon vote with their feet.

Then, last week, temptation appeared in the form of a very reasonable email which offered a small payment in return for a promotional post for a client. The email promised that I would have complete editorial freedom (although the client reserves the right not to publish) and that I should make it clear that the post was sponsored. It was a disarmingly clever email.

I was about to delete the message, but curiosity got the better of me. Who was the client?

When I discovered that it was the British Library, I couldn't believe my luck. I was expecting some sort of corporation. Instead, I was being asked to promote an exhibition that I would have gladly written about anyway.

As far as I was concerned, the acid test would be whether I could say what I liked, so I wrote a post about business jargon, mentioning the exhibition at the end. I had decided that I wouldn't accept any editorial changes to the content and if the post was rejected, that was that.

The post was accepted. No changes were required and I felt that my criteria were met, but nevertheless, I wonder if I have crossed a line? And where do we draw that line? Free books? Links to Amazon? Invitations to book launches? Promoting books by friends?

If I ever want to see the money, I apparently have to write one or two more sponsored posts and I doubt if I'll ever be offered another client as squeaky clean as the British Library, so my brief flirtation with monetising may have been a bit of a flop. However, I enjoyed writing the post and really appreciated the range of comments, so it was worth doing.


Sam Jordison said...

I enjoyed that post and frankly I think you deserve some money for writing this blog. Indeed, I'd gladly pay a (small!) subscription. So long as you don't feel your editorial integrity is hurt, I'd say go for it. Too much insistence on entirely "voluntary" blogging makes it ever more likely to become the preserve of the leisured and wealthy...

Lucille said...

I didn't care. It still sounded like you. I might get a bit worried if you start extolling the virtues of KFC instead of KJB but I don't see that happening any time soon.
Wish I could have had some free choccies from Charbonnel et Walker!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I think you've still got plenty of soul left Steerforth!

Though I wouldn't want to see every one of your postings become a commissioned piece as personally I prefer to hear the real unfettered you, fetlocks flowing in the wind ;-) even if a commissioned subject does not compromise your principles or feelings about something and actually rather chimes in with them than not.

On the other hand, needs must and where the devil drives etc...

Aside from the choicest phrases, cherry-picked by seculism through the ages, this listener found the recent King James bible day on R4 pretty grim and hard going and had to switch off when it got too bloodthirsty.

Helen Brocklebank said...

I think the podcasts of R4's KJV series are still available - they were on iTunes recently, at any rate, and well worth a listen, both for the background and for the beautifully delivered readings by Samuel West, Hugh Bonneville and so on. I've become a little obsessed - I'm reading a tremendous book by Gordon Campbell called 'BIBLE, The Story of the King James Version', and it's so good. It reminds one what an extraordinary language we have, and the belligerent anti-intellectualism that appears to pervade our culture at the moment makes me sad.
But anyway, that wasn't what I was going to say - don't worry about sponsored posts, I can't imagine that the sums of money offered are awfully corrupting, and you also flagged it up as such, so as far as I'm concerned, you are as Caesar's wife. Take the money. And take notice of the dozens of very complimentary comments, rather than the single rather snitty one.

Anyway, I was reduced to using my Boots Advantage points the other day, so I completely sympathise.

St. Casserole said...

So far, you haven't crossed the line and you are aware of the issues, so go ahead and make some cash.

St. Casserole said...

You are aware of the issues, you got an offer from the British Museum, I am fine with your choice. I enjoy your blog. If you can make a bit of cash blogging, I'm fine with it.

MikeP said...

Occasionally bloggers put out an appeal for funds if they fall on hard times, and tend to be rather gobsmacked by the resulting shower of cash. Not necessarily suggesting you should do the same thing, but we all know what Dr Johnson would have said, and I see no reason why something that pleases so many people should be produced entirely as a labour of love. Personally, I'd rather enjoy watching you avoid the elephant traps that a commission from KFC would entail!

Steerforth said...

Mike - I'd rather starve to death than appeal for money, but I suppose if we're continuing the King James theme, "Pride cometh before a fall"!

Anyway, the jam jar episode only lasted for a few weeks, then my wife got some copy-editing work for a couple of weeks, which pulled us back from the brink.

KFC? Hmm, that gives me an idea. My mother's next-door neighbour is very high up at KFC, so mabe I can get a deal going where I refer to the finger lickin' good properties of their fried chicken at some point in the post.

Mrs Trefusis - I shall definitely look out for Gordon Campbell's book. As for the Radio Four broadcasts, the link is here:

Thanks for your words of support, but in fairness to John, I think he was just surprised and uncertain about the background to the post. He's always been very generous in his support of this blog and it's a mark of my respect for his opinions that I threw the question open.

Lucille - I've just visited the Charbonnel et Walker website. £21.50 for 275g worth of chocolate truffles! £3.99 for a 75g bar of chocolate! It must be good stuff.

St Casserole - It's nice to have a theologian's perspective on this ethical dilemma. Thank you for not mentioning anything about the "wages of sin" ;)

Laura - I don't think I'm in any danger of being besieged by offers. This was probably just a one-off, so I'll never see the money. And yes, I'd much rather be unfettered by any agenda.

I tried to write for a Lewes website once, but the remit to stick to local issues was too inhibiting, so I had to give up.

Sam - thanks for your kind words about the blog. I'm flattered to think that you'd pay a subscription (even a small one!).

I wouldn't have the balls to do that - imagine the humiliation of discovering that only 13 people had signed up! Also, I write about the things that amuse me or move me and hope that they mean something to others. If I "monetised", I'd feel obliged to second-guess what people wanted to read (although I think I know the answer - Derek).

Grey Area said...

My personal weakness was the small adds in Private Eye - the ones along the lines of

"talented music student needs £3000 to save house and marriage - anything considered"

- as a student in London I often considered placing an add and seeing if the money rolled in... however - I was never too sure if what I was supposed to do for it.

Occasionally getting paid for a bit of blogging seems pretty reasonable to me. On a couple of occasions my siblings have offered my money based on one of my regular online rants about lack of funds - I've always refused... including the time my sister visited the house and offered my several thousand pounds in order to make it 'fit to live in'...

Brett said...

Um, I think it's "goeth".

Shoot, Steerforth, I bet if you put a Paypal widget up and said nothing about it, you'd begin to see a (heh) "revenue stream."

magiciansgirl said...

I think you should do whatever you need to do if it supports your work as a blogger and as a provider for your family. Now, if I were, say, the Human Resources (don't get me started) Director at my own place of work, I would have written that I think that you should do whatever you need to do to "facilitate" your success. Kim

Anonymous said...

You're a good writer and you have no need to be ashamed of getting paid for your work. Just as long as you aren't asked to endorse something you personally find heinous!

Re: The King James Bible. You are spot on. To me, the KJV is not only theology, it is literature -- and as such, it's sacrilege to tamper with it!

How can you compstr the New International Version of "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news ..." with the KJV "Fear not for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy ... "?

To my way of thinking -- you can't

Canadian Chickadee

Junie said...

I am sure that if you had compromised your integrity in your previous post (or any others), I would have been deafened by the not so still, small voice of You-Know-Who. But I didn't hear a peep out of him.

Surely there's a way for you to blog for profit (at least part of the time) and with honor (all of the time). I do understand your fastidiousness, though.

Zoe said...

I've recently had to consider exactly trying to earn money from my blog, just like you. I do use Amazon affiliates, but in 18 months of blogging I've made £9. You hit the nail on the head for me with your comment "a blog should always be about belief and passion," - and that's what made me stick with my policy of not accepting advertising. But you're right, drawing the line is difficult - I do accept books for review and I still find it hard to be completely honest when I'm reviewing such a book if it's one I didn't actually enjoy that much. Have you seen the new OFT guidlines?

Anonymous said...

It's not often that you see God and Mammon in one blog entry! I recently replied to a text, asking me how I was, after a killer bout of swine flu, with 'Faint but pursuing...' and then wondered where that quote was from. I identified it on Google as being from the story of Gideon in, I think, Judges and thence to my KJB and spent ages happily finding great stories in the OT, (King David and Abishag, who was sent to warm him in his bed as an old man - my HWB is now an Abishag.. Rebellious Absalom who was killed by his father's henchman, because his hair was inextricably caught in an oak tree; Bathsheba bathing on the roof of her house, to catch the king's eye...) with phrase after phrase that had become part of our language. I too, had heard the marvellous readings on Radio 4 and so enjoyed them - all this, and not a Christian cell in my body..
As to Mammon, Steerforth, your regular readers would trust you on this, so I say, if some reputable organisation offers you money for your writing and it's something you feel Ok about, then take it. We may start to wonder when you try to push singles holidays or Lewes Bingo Hall (no,not in Lewes, surely?) but we'll let you know if you're veering toward the dodgy...
Anna C

Steerforth said...

Thanks - it's good to have a wide range of opinions and I'd strongly recommend visiting Zoe's link for the wonderfully concise Office of Fair Trading guideline. Thanks Zoe.

Brett - I'll bear the Paypal widget in mind if the children start complaining about gnawing hunger pains, but we're fine at the moment. As long as nothing breaks or collapses, we will survive.

Kim - Facilitate is one of my favourites. I think that Anglo-Saxon words are too naked for some people - you can't hide behind 'do' or 'make', but facilitate is sufficiently woolly. Also, there's a theory that our cultural subconscious is still affected by the days when English was the language of peasants and people used longer, Norman French words to impress.

Chickadee - I hope I never unwittingly promote something that you regard as heinous!

Junie - That is a question I often ask myself: what would Derek do? He'd like to spend the money on secondhand books, but he might feel compelled to donate it to the Mormons.

Anna - Yes, I shall rely on the readers to tell me when I've got it wrong. But I shall also try not to succumb to paranoia when someone asks a perfectly justified question!

This has been an interesting (for me, anyway) thread about the ethics of blogging and there appears to be a broad consensus. Thank you to everyone for their comments.

George H. said...

I see no reason to doubt your credibility. Yet.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, Steerforth! I really must apologise. I merely meant that there was nothing wrong with earning money as long as you personally believe what you are saying.

I certainly never meant to imply that those who disagree with me need fear me!

My opinions (and yes, like everyone, I have many) are strictly my own. Half the fun of reading blogs and facebook entries is checking out other people's views. A few times I've changed my opinion as a result of something someone posted.

So, keep up the good -- and very interesting -- work you do.

Cheers! Canadian Chickadee

Steerforth said...

Chicakadee - Please don't apologise! I was only being tongue-in-cheek.

I love having my own opinions challenged, even if it makes me a little paranoid that I've offended someone.

George - Your warning has been noted. My contract with KFC hasn't been signed yet ;)

MTFF said...

I was rather glad to read that post, actually, as I would never have known about the exhibition if you hadn't and I thought you did it rather well. Your integrity and honesty always shines through, it's one of your charms as a writer. As for being a rampant commercial whore, I don't think we need worry just yet. I mean you're hardly posting from your private island in the Bahamas, drowning your conscience in liquor & lucre courtesy the BRITISH LIBRARY FFS.

BTW.If you ever did manage to score some cash from KFC and write about it as convincingly as the last post I shall be extremely impressed and eat my words along with my bucket of suspect fowl..

Anonymous said...

I certainly didn't think a sponsored post was the beginning of the end.

No worries if you manage to pick up some money from your hobby. Yes, it would be nice if you continued to let us know when we might see a possibly connection between posts and money.