Now, Pepsi is a for-profit corporation but paid writers are paid writers. Scienceblogs people were positively gushing over the fact that similar corporate blogs written by CERN, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the SETI Institute, the Weizmann Institute of Science and Brookhaven National Laboratory set up shop there - and the list of public relations blogs there is longer than that. What are those people going to write about that is ethically any different than Pepsi? No idea, Pepsi has not written anything yet but the implication is that whatever Pepsi writes about will be unethical, so Scienceblogs paid writers do not want to be associated with Pepsi paid writers, but blogs written by paid writers from HHMI, CERN, etc. are all completely fine.You can bet that snippet didn't get retweeted by Sciblings or get me included in any "best of ..." lists about the scandal even though I am on the first page of Google for Pepsigate - but now Newsweek has echoed the same idea.
Unlike the network's other respected blogs, they wouldn't be written by individuals choosing their topics based on personal whims and interests. Instead, they would come "from the world's top scientific institutions"–Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the SETI Institute, CERN, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute–with the goal of "providing these institutions with a new way of communicating their incredible research online."Sounds like corporate PR, except for a non-profit, meaning the presumption there was that for-profit researchers were less ethical than institutional ones. And, further showing that Newsweek at least read my article ...
But no one raised an objection. Indeed, given that the announcement garnered only a single anodyne comment, one might assume few people saw it. Certainly, none of ScienceBlogs's often fiercely opinionated writers–who were told about the announcement the day before it was made–linked to it. In other words: no big deal.Yes, crickets chirping about the influx of non-blogging blogging, because institutional blogs were a sign of legitimacy to bloggers there - Pepsi, not so much. Newsweek quotes Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic who wrote, "When a story is complex, journalists ought to examine whatever thesis they hold and attempt, by reporting, to falsify it" and then rightfully compare it to a scientist's job - but that is not in a PR person's job description. Their job is to present an uncritical, positive look at their employer. And maybe that is not even a blogger's job, if the institution in question makes them feel more prestigious by association.
And Newsweek's writer(s?) offers as future much like what I said later in the comments - Pepsigate has shaken out the more militant Scienceblogs writers who would object to an infusion of public relations efforts, but the ones making real money are going nowhere and the ones that remained would obviously be okay with the new direction toward institutional blogs - a direction where bloggers don't have to be paid.
Whatever that strategy is, the task of finding and executing it belongs to the ScienceBlogs management. And they'd better find a solution pretty soon, because ScienceBlogs plans to introduce dozens of institutional sites "in the near future," as Bly wrote in his e-mail.
The story still doesn't seem to be over (I predicted it was before and would die quickly with just a few departures from people with little traffic anyway) but it isn't the death knell for Scienceblogs. Bloggers that departed who may have become a little too concerned about competing for pageviews may now get back to the core business of doing science outreach, better for everyone else in the science audience, while SEED now has a chance to remake itself and perhaps get into a little more science and a less less political and cultural hammering at Scienceblogs.
As of this moment, ERV of Scienceblogs is the only one to chime in at Newsweek (it requires yet another registration to comment), and his take on the scandal back then was contrarian to the rest of the site and his comment is still confrontational now;
"And Sloot might be a 'celebrated author', but her blog has been nothing but a gigantic advertisement for her book for months, and no one said boo. This was an exercise viral hysterics in a small in-group. Nothing more."
I'm guessing he won't be there much longer if he keeps on speaking common sense - or Adam Bly will make him a Vice-President.