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News Editor

Sprint’s ambassadors of ill will?

Mar 22, 20063 mins
Data Center

 So Sprint recently launched this Ambassador Program, which sounds like one of those airline lounges I only get to see when traveling with the boss but is actually a marketing ploy whereby the carrier gives influential bloggers a Samsung A-920 cell phone and six months worth of free calling on the Sprint Power Vision Network.

The idea is that these bloggers will sing the praises of the phone and the service in their blogs, thus buying the kind of grassroots buzz that marketing budgets simply cannot provide.

However, the idea doesn’t exactly seem to be working in this case, witness this post from Christopher Carfi one of the participants, on his blog called The Social Customer Manifesto. Seems as though Carfi has had such a hassle trying to get his phone service in working order that the device has already been relegated to paperweight status.

Sprint isn’t the first to try this seed-the-bloggers strategy, of course. Blogger Jason Dowdell — also a Sprint Chosen One — explains why such programs are going to swiftly proliferate in this post on his MarketShift blog (a scan of which reminded me that I had planned to include a really cool bio page on Buzzblog along the lines of what Jason has on his — every blog should have one).

Sprint didn’t ask me to be an ambassador. Perhaps that’s because my blog is new. Or maybe the company is savvy enough to realize that professional journalist-bloggers operate under ethical restrictions that generally preclude accepting freebies. (Or maybe it’s the fact that my blog is, ahem, relatively undiscovered.) Whatever the reason, it was never going to be.

But reading the posts written by Carfi and Dowdell did get me to thinking: Might it be time to rethink those ethical restrictions that would have forced me to decline the invitation Sprint never offered?

I mean Carfi demonstrated quite emphatically that a credible voice cannot be bought for the price of a free cell phone.

Shouldn’t professional journalists be afforded the same benefit of the doubt by their bosses and readers?

The mere suggestion will be considered heresy by many a journalist — and they’ll have a good case. After all, credibility is everything in this business and we have enough challenges maintaining it without adding on another.

Bottom line: Freebies just aren’t worth the risk for someone who does this for a living. … But I’m open to other points of view.

News Editor

In addition to my editing duties, I have written Buzzblog since January, 2006 and wrote the 'Net Buzz column in Network World's dearly departed print edition for 13 years. Feel free to e-mail me at