I believe my primary role as a tech journalist, besides making enough money to survive in our current capitalist economic system, is to provide helpful and accurate information. No matter if it’s in a news article, a tutorial, or an opinionated editorial, nothing should be misleading or harmful in any way. I’m not perfect, and I have made mistakes in that regard in the past (and might make some in the future), but I make it a point to correct any incorrect information or points in my work when they are pointed out to me.
I’ve been lucky to work with publishers and other organizations that roughly share these same goals, but my views are not always the same as the views of editors and managers above me, and my employers ultimately reserve the legal right to modify and republish anything I work on. For example, I published and maintained a guide for installing the Google Play Store on Amazon Fire tablets when I worked at Android Police, which has been updated and modified several times by other writers ever since I left Android Police (in early 2021). The guide is probably still accurate and won’t cause the tablet to explode, but I have no control or input over its current form.
There are also many websites that solely exist by scraping the contents of articles published elsewhere and changing enough of the words to make Google think they are an original post. Some of those sites have copied articles I made, sometimes (hilariously) with my name still referenced somewhere.
All of that is why I’m making this personal ethics statement — these are the guidelines I set for anything I write with my name on it, as they originally appeared. If you see something with my name on it that violates anything written here, please let me know, because it either means I screwed up or my work was modified from its original form.
1. My opinions are my own in news, reviews, and other work. This is a pretty basic principle that almost universally true among news outlets, but I still get the occasional “were you paid for this review?” comment when I say something nice about a product, so I’m making it clear here. I have never been paid by a third-party company (e.g. someone besides my direct employer) in exchange for good press, a more positive review, and so on. I obviously have my own biases and opinions that not everyone else shares, but they are my own views.
2. External companies do not get editorial input on my work. The only exception to this is sponsored content, which always states somewhere that the content was paid for by a company. Even with sponsored content, the third-party company never pays me directly — they have a content deal with the publisher, and I am paid to write or coordinate the effort by my employer.
3. I won’t write something that I consider harmful. This one is admittedly vague, but I think it’s important, especially when writing tutorials or other actionable content. I won’t write something that I feel has a high chance of causing a negative effect or outcome, such as a tutorial for disabling the hands-on-wheel detection in Tesla cars, or a roundup of the best apps for tracking/spying on unknowing adults (just to name examples I have seen elsewhere).
4. I will not endorse the use of cryptocurrency and select other blockchain-based projects. This is just an extension of the last rule, but it comes up enough that it’s worth calling out separately. I will never write content that endorses or explains how to mine cryptocurrency, trade crypto, or other related topics. Most cryptocurrencies and related projects right now are either terrible for the environment (such as the mining process for Bitcoin, Ether, and other Proof-of-Work currencies), riddled with scams/poor regulation, or both (such as NFTs).
I often cover topics related to cryptocurrency for news, because a large tech company looking into adopting cryptocurrency is newsworthy in the same way that an oil spill is newsworthy, but that content does not encourage its use or praise any companies or people involved. I may make exceptions for crypto/block-chain projects that are environmentally sustainable and are not scams, but that seems to be the minority of them.
5. I may own stock in some companies. I sometimes have shares in some companies (occasionally I sell everything), because gambling on the NYSE is one of the few ways for my generation to invest savings. I usually avoid companies that I report on for my job, but if it comes up, I always add a message somewhere in the article stating I own stock in said company.
Many common practices in this industry that are mentioned in similar ethics statements (such as compensated travel accommodations) don’t apply to me, at least not yet, but I will continue to update this statement as needed.
Finally, it’s worth noting that there is no authority to hold me to these rules except me. There is no journalism police that will arrest me on the spot if I wake up one day and decide to promote an NFT scam. This statement is just stating the bar I have set for myself — I encourage you to read my work over the past few years, and form your own opinion.