The Slippery Slope Outdoors Writers With Integrity Must Avoid

A lot has changed over the past three decades in journalism.   And while change is often inevitable to the process—especially in an age of social media and digital publishing of all types—that doesn’t mean many of the core principles inherent to maintaining good communication standards needs to also be sacrificed.

So, yesterday I was involved in a lively discussion with a Public Relations person who was trying to educate me on the process of how things currently work.   The crux of their message was if you want to experience increased opportunity and access playing the role of a media person it requires said media person to get “cozy” with the industry you are trying to cover as a journalist.


Since when did it become an acceptable practice for journalists of any type to have such close ties to the industry they strive to professionally cover without being tainted by conflicting interests?   In fact, it used to be if a writer had any prior connection whatsoever with the subject matter of the story it needed to be open and notorious with the extent of the relationship fully disclosed to the readers.

Apparently that type of thinking has become old school.   Yet, I strongly disagree with this apparent trend.

A couple years back I was involved in discussions with an outdoor news outlet who wanted me to become a staff writer for them.   We were all excited about the possibilities the new relationship held until we suddenly encountered an unforeseen snag.

PressI was told as a writer from time to time I would be expected to do product evaluations.   The editor would choose the product and I could write about some new outdoor gadget and brag it up.   I asked…well, what if I don’t find value in the product to write a good review?   I was specifically instructed how that was not an option as I had to speak positive of the product because they also would be one of the publication’s advertisers.

At that point the mood of the conversation suddenly changed.   I said no…this won’t work.   I cannot in good conscience write about any product or topic that I do not personally believe in.   I will not lie to myself or to my readers.   When I sign my name to an article or a blog post it has to be genuine and completely true in all details to the best of my ability.   That’s how I was taught and I won’t sell my soul to the devil just to make some quick cash.

And so it apparently is with outdoors writing in this 21st Century communication world.   There seems to be an affinity towards such a “cozy” relationship with some manufacturers that eventually the writer simply becomes a pro-staffer, and that’s perfectly fine as long as its disclosed and all appearances of true journalistic standards are set aside by said disclosure.

My point is if you want to call yourself an outdoors writer in the truest journalistic sense then you must strive to only have your reader’s best interests in mind.   When you start getting “cozy” with manufacturers and others in your story then the writer runs the risk of sliding down a dangerous literary slope.

When I do a product test and evaluation the manufacturer knows it will be honest.   When I want to connect with industry folks it will not be with special conditions and prior approvals.   Nope, for anyone to even hint at the notion I better start getting “cozy” with the product sellers of my industry in order to succeed as a writer, in my opinion, has very devilish intents.

©2014 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

A Few Words About Guest Blogging On Sportsman’s Blog

Hi Jim,

    I’m contacting you today to determine what guest blogging opportunities exist for Sportsman’s Blog.   I have been writing a blog for the past few months over at and would really like to do a guest post on your blog in exchange for a link.   I’ve been a reader of your blog for several years and truly believe I have some valuable content that I can include on your blog to increase its value to your readers.

    I am open to specific blog post suggestions, however, my expertise is in the following topic areas:

  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Trail riding
  • Mountain biking

    I look forward to your response.   Keep up the great blogging effort!


Mr. I Wanna Blog 4U

Dear Mr. I Wanna Blog 4U,

Thank you for your kind words about Sportsman’s Blog and your sincere interest in being part of this online digital communication effort.   The mere fact you took the time to inquire about guest blogging opportunities on my blog is indeed quite flattering.Blog

Unfortunately, I have had a policy now for nearly ten years running to not accept guest bloggers for several reasons I would like to outline.

  1. Since day one this blog has been a personal effort sharing my own particular thoughts and outdoors knowledge.   While I value diversity in outdoors opinion and information, I feel that most of my readers come to this blog site to learn what is on MY MIND and to share in some of my outdoors discoveries.   To broaden that scope by having multiple authors posting is not in my blog’s marketing or editorial plans.
  2. Furthermore, I understand how many folks value guest blogging as a way of building audiences for their own blogs through link building activities.   This SEO practice has worked wildly successful for some folks in the past, but my understanding is Google is now cracking down on such efforts and will penalize participants who engage in this audience building practice.   That being said, I do not see any value in link building at this time and choose not to risk being penalized in the future for engaging in this out-dated SEO practice.
  3. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I take great personal pride in my blogging efforts and having done so on this site for nearly 10 years running.   Someday when I reflect back on my meager accomplishment in the blogging world I don’t want to say I owe anyone else partial credit for this effort.   I strongly encourage anyone who wants to blog to create their own blog and start writing.   Work hard and begin to make a name for yourself.   I promise you the longer you keep at the effort the stronger your resolve will be not to allow others to become involved in any way.

In closing, I want to sincerely thank you for taking the time out of your day to contact me about any potential guest blogging opportunities on Sportsman’s Blog.   Please do not take my lack of cooperation on your request as a rejection, instead it should be viewed as an encouragement to make your own literary mark in this digital world by not coat tailing on to someone else’s effort.   If you truly believe you have the skills it takes to blog, then you’re doing yourself a disservice by directing those skills on any blog other than the one you personally own.

Best regards,

Jim Braaten

©2014 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Outdoors Bloggers Sometimes Frustrate The Hell Out Of Me

I’m not going to mince words.   At times hunting and fishing bloggers frustrate the hell out of me.   Even though I tend to think we are a fairly tight-knit group sharing common passions, when it comes to organizing and learning together it’s like waving a braided garlic rope in front of a vampire.   Outdoors bloggers tend to quickly disappear for the hills…with gun or bow in hand, I might add.

Seriously, there’s something a bit different about outdoors bloggers that I can’t quite understand.   I get it that most bloggers have a limited amount of free time in their lives for both blogging and enjoying the outdoors.   I also get it that a person can be hunting and fishing nearly any time of the year so why waste a day sitting in a class or meeting with other bloggers.   But what happened to the notion of enhancing the writer’s craft through skill building and networking?   Seems to me great opportunities are being lost here.

A few weeks back I attended my third Minnesota Bloggers Conference (known as “MNBlogCon”) with Michelle Scheuermann of the Sportsman Channel who also blogs at   To my knowledge we were the only outdoors bloggers in attendance.   There were lots of mommy bloggers, food bloggers, fashion bloggers, sports bloggers, technology bloggers, marketing bloggers, not to mention just ordinary lifestyle bloggers.   Yet, no other outdoors bloggers.

Photo2What a shame.   I sometimes wonder if hunting and fishing bloggers place any priorities on skill building.   I mean, let’s face it…there are many ways to communicate the outdoors experience.   But to do it with even a modicum level of journalistic skill does not come naturally to a person.   It requires some training and my guess is most bloggers are not trained writers beyond, perhaps, a college level introductory composition class.   Just a guess.

And that’s where learning to become a better blogger comes in.   Most of us have it down how to become better anglers or hunters, but if you want to call yourself an outdoors blogger being good at a particular sport is only one facet to being an outdoors blogger.   The communication component needs attention and nurturing, too.

Now, this criticism is not directed to bloggers who may belong to various regional or national writing organizations.   I understand with annual conferences and gatherings they get their share of networking and craft building.   Nope, my criticism today is with the outdoors blogger who sits at home and never interacts face-to-face with other bloggers.   It is my sincere hope this blogger recognizes on many levels the benefits of meeting other bloggers and improving on their communication skills.

Quite honestly if you expect to achieve longevity in any task (whether it be blogging, etc.) you must feed the beast to keep it alive.   Meeting with other bloggers has a way of recharging a person’s batteries with renewed enthusiasm.   For me, attending a blogger conference or gathering also allows me to do some deep introspection in terms of where I am going with my blog.

In closing, I am here to tell you that blogging holds some exciting possibilities in the coming years for those who excel at it.   If you’re contemplating starting a blog, why not start today.   If you’re already a blogger pledge to become an even better blogger.   Either way, it pays big dividends to get out and to meet other bloggers when they gather to learn.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.