We hate to admit it in our industry, but manufacturers—especially advertisers and sponsors—will have some influence over what, and even how, we write. We are human after all: they may inspire bias for or against the wares they peddle, but they will inevitably make an impression. Anyone who claims otherwise is either lying through their teeth or a robot. It’s impossible to write completely without bias, and even if it were possible, we shouldn’t.
The audience is where we owe our allegiance: without them we are nothing. When writing an article our goal should not be to write without bias, doing so would only be a disservice to our audience. Our readers are our readers because they identify with our style and value our opinions (or at the very least find us entertaining). Our audience wants to know what we love or hate, and why. Be fair, but don’t water down your true impressions to the monotony of a dictionary just to avoid offense.
Never allow an advertiser or sponsor to gain a hand in your editorial process. Correct factual errors, of course. Profusely thank sponsors for being awesome, sure. If change for the better occurs as a result of your feedback, then by all means praise the manufacturer for their willingness to listen. Don’t allow them to effect change to the meaning of articles: doing so sets a dangerous precedent for dishonest action, scares off viewers and manufacturers alike, and like a bad infomercial only truly serves to undermine an author’s credibility.
I challenge my fellow authors to write with bias, fairness, and honesty. And, I challenge editors to approve and publish more of the concepts that arrive on their desk with these principles intact. In this strange new age of manufacturers-turned-publishers it’s the only way we can stand free from their purse strings to create trustworthy and independent content.