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ABC News is OK with blogger's DuPont ads

March 22, 2007|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

New York — WHEN ABC News tapped Amanda Congdon in December to do video blogs for its website and digital channel, the network was hoping to capitalize on the former Rocketboom anchor's popularity among a younger, Web-savvier set.

But the alliance between the network news division and the irreverent Web personality has forced ABC to confront a murky issue: When bloggers become journalists, do they have to hew to the same rules?

That tension was underscored this week with the news that Congdon is currently featured in a series of commercials for DuPont on the chemical company's website. In the short-form videos, the 25-year-old dons a white lab coat and cheerfully touts the value of DuPont products such as Kevlar and Nomex.

ABC, like other news organizations, prohibits its freelancers and staffers from participating in commercials and other activities that could erode their credibility as independent journalists.

But Jeffrey Schneider, a spokesman for the news division, said Congdon is a contributing commentator, not a journalist: "This was a unique arrangement. She's not reading the headlines, she's not reporting the news of the day. She's offering her own style of opinion."

Congdon does interviews for her ABC video blog but said she is not a journalist and should not be subjected to the profession's rules. She said she plans to keep doing commercials.

"ABC News is a very traditional news organization, and they're trying to work with me in a untraditional way, and of course there's going to be confusion with all these new things we're doing," she said. "I think it comes with the territory."

Indeed, other news organizations are confronting similar issues. This week, the Los Angeles Times website pulled an environmental blog authored by Seth Jacobson, an advocate for renewable energy. Editors said it was posted mistakenly and will return in the spring, after Jacobson quits his work as an activist.

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