Blogger Responsibility: Where Do We Draw the Line?

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

Hey there!

I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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Fun workout today! 😎 Murphy and I went for a 2-mile run/walk around the neighborhood. We’re both training for races (Run to Remember for me; Pug 5K for him) so we did our training run together. Running buddies rule!

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Murphy felt strong for the entire two miles”” he even did a few sprints at the end– but he plopped down on the porch as soon as we got home. He was exhausted! Two miles is pretty far for a dog with short legs!

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Lunch

Warm weather = smoothies. In the mix: frozen blueberries, banana, plain yogurt, almond milk, chia seeds, and vanilla protein powder. I also ate a couple handfuls of cherries and a piece of toast with sunflower butter on it.

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Blogger Responsibility

As you probably know, I sat on a panel at Fitbloggin’ called Blogger Responsibility: Where Do We Draw the Line? It was was moderated by Lisa Johnson, who also participated in the panel, and included MizFit and me. The idea for the panel developed after the response to the “The Hunger Diaries” article by Marie Claire magazine. You can read my post about it here.

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When “The Hunger Diaries” article came out, I honestly wanted to hide under a rock because the days that followed were crazy. Assumptions were made. Fingers were pointed. Mean-spirited comments erupted all over the healthy living community. Nearly all of the incidents mentioned in the article were taken out of context to fit the author’s own personal agenda, but the situation helped spark some great conversation in the blog world about blogger responsibility.

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One of the first questions that we addressed during the panel was whether bloggers are qualified to dispense health advice or not. There is such a range of titles, certifications, and credentials in the blog world, it’s hard to say who is really qualified. In Massachusetts, for instance, you can call yourself a ”˜nutritionist’ without any sort of training. (FYI: If you’re looking for nutrition advice, a Registered Dietitian is your best bet.) Everyone on the panel agreed if you’re not a trained professional, it’s better to be conservative with the type of information you share on your blog. MizFit added that she doesn’t give specific fitness regimens to her readers.

If you’re a regular reader of CNC, you know that I blog about my life. I’m not a expert in anything (except my own life and probably Murph’s), so if a reader asks me a question that I’m not qualified to answer, I always refer them to a professional (RD, doctor, personal trainer, etc.). I’m not afraid to say that I don’t know. As bloggers, we need to know our individual limits, especially since our influence over some of our readers might be quite deep.

Sometimes, however, I write posts sharing my own experiences and offer advice to my readers. I love to help people and often benefit from reading other bloggers’ stories and suggestions, so I like to share the same type of posts on my blog. When I do, I usually include a disclaimer message at the beginning of the post (similar to what I did here), which reminds readers that I am not a trained professional and the information provided is based on my personal experiences and opinions.

During the panel, when I mentioned my practice of including disclaimers in my blog posts, a woman in the audience immediately shot up her hand and expressed her surprise. She didn’t think it was necessary to include disclaimers because readers should be responsible for themselves. Shortly after this woman’s comment, another member of the audience asked: “Is it arrogant to assume readers will be influenced by a blogger this much? What about reader responsibility?”

Personally, I add a quick disclaimer to some of my posts because I’m sure it helps some of my readers and it only takes a minute to do. However, there seemed to be an annoyed contingent in the audience that thought the subject was assuming readers were “idiots” if we, as bloggers, need to be this cautious for them. Of course, this is a great topic for discussion, so I leave you with a couple of questions:

Where do we draw the line when it comes to blogger responsibility? What do you think is your responsibility as a blog reader?

Here’s the entire transcript from the Blogger Responsibility panel.

P.S. Check out Brie’s Blog for Dogs registry event to help benefit the homeless and abandoned animals in Joplin, Missouri, who have been devastated by the tornado.

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136 Comments

  1. What a great post Tina!

    I do always appreciate the disclaimers, especially if I’m new to a blog. I don’t come on looking for professional advice though; I just look for blogs that may relate to me and my journey through weight loss and getting healthy. I come in for ideas (exercises and food). But I can see how some people may take what bloggers say to heart and try to mimic when they probably can’t/shouldn’t.

  2. Wow, Tina…big post, big topic.

    I frankly hate having to write things to the effect of “this is just my experience/opinion/what worked for me/do as you see fit/I am not a doctor/just sharing my life/experiences…”

    It becomes old hat and as ppl in the audience pointed out, is this really nessary and wouldnt it imply that my readers are dummies if they don’t realize this? But the few times I don’t say it, I get a slew of comments and someone thinks I do think I am more “qualified” than I am so to speak, on whatever the topic is.

    So, as much as I dont want to write it. I do. Sorta a CYA move. Or in my case, covering my own 🙂

    Going to go read everyone’s comments now…

  3. I’m so glad I read this post because, as a healthblogger, I need to know this information. I have never written a disclaimer and I guess I need to. I, as most, assume people aren’t stupid and don’t require me to tell them that I am not professional and that they hold some sort of personal responsibility for their actions.

    In this day and age, we are so quick to blame someone else than to just take responsibility for the mistakes we’ve made. Instead of saying, my child has an eating disorder possibly because of things that have gone on in my household, they say, this blogger caused my daughter to be sick.

    So, with that being said, I need to make a disclaimer!

  4. This is a great post and topic. I guess if someone happened upon your blog via a google search or something, they might assume that your knowlegde or opinion is based on your credentials. I personally am never offeneded when a blogger has a disclaimer. I am sure most readers also know that this is your life, opinion, etc…. but you never know who is reading. I think the disclaimer is a good reminder for people such as younger girls and teens, people new to the blog world and so on. I think some people take things to personally sometimes or just like to argue for arguments sake. Just my opinion. You keep on doing your thing girl bc your pretty damn good at it.

  5. Yes, readers DO need to be responsible…BUT, if you did not include that disclaimer, you open yourself up for potential lawsuits any time you post something that could be construed as ‘advice’.

    Considering that this blog is your livelihood, it would be irresponsible NOT to include the disclaimer.

    Personally, I’d pick being perceived as arrogant over being irresponsible any day of the week.

    Love the blog, keep up the great posts!

  6. As a reader, I usually read an about me on all blogs to know whether the blogger has any educational background. If not, I assume everything on their blog is from their own personal experiences. I never assume what works for one will work for me. If someone has success with a workout, I’ll try it but to my own abilities. I DO think that some younger blog readers (as girls get more and more into diet and fitness so young they might find themselves on this blog) might not be that aware and for that reason a disclaimer is useful.

    On that note, I think sometimes the blogging community as a whole, and I’m a part of it, can show a very limited view. Obviously, it is what the author wants to share. I don’t expect anything more. I only share what I’m comfortable with as well. But when I first started reading, I wasn’t in as “stable” of a place when it came to diet and fitness and on the one hand it was AMAZING to learn this new, healthy way of eating, viewing food, and exercise. And on the other hand, when I wasn’t fitting in, I still felt like I was doing things wrong because some people only depict the healthy meals and not the handful of chocolate chips.

    At the same time, I don’t think the author can possibly know or cater to all of these differing views, it’s definitely a tough line to draw.

  7. I was hoping you’d post a bit about this panel discussion from Fitbloggin’.

    Here’s what I think: blog readers need to be responsible for their own health and safety. They should know that just because something is said on a blog it doesn’t mean they should head out and heed that advice to a T and then blame the author when/if it goes awry.

    Any type of reader can seek advice anywhere. If you’re a smart consumer, you’ll think about taking that advice before you leap into whatever it is that you want to try.

  8. I think it’s a good idea and I know I appreciate the disclaimer. I don’t know that it’s necessary to put it on every post, but if you just put it in your bio/about page I think that covers you and lets your readers know what’s up.

  9. Until we become a less letigious society, I think that disclaimers are a good idea. It doesn’t bug me when I see them and I don’t think it is arrogant to assume that you may have to include a caveat or two. (Maybe it’s arrogant of ME as a reader to assume that I know better and those messages aren’t for me!) Unfortunately, it is the few who lack critical thinking skills that make it worse for the many who do not.

  10. Great topic, Tina. I see the value in disclaimers, particularly for those readers who are not well acquanited with the healthy living blog community. I know i found healthy living blogs just by searching for a recipe, and I’m sure others have as well. For these readers especially, disclaimers open the door for completely honest and open communication from both parties.

  11. The thing about the word influence is that it makes you automatically think of someone being brainwashed like a zombie who reads your posts and imitates you to the letter. At least that is the feel that I get by the tone that “influenced” is used in this context by bloggers. Influence can be something as subtle as featuring the same products over and over until the reader eventually goes and tries them simply because they see it on the blog every day. This happened to me with a healthy living blog that I used to read called Kath Eats Real Food. I read her blog every day for almost a year but I no longer read it now.

    I found myself buying Larabars not because she brainwashed me but because she influenced me. She seemed to enjoy them so why not give them a try? To me, it was just like someone recommending a product in passing. I eventually started looking at her blog seeing how she would “enjoy herself” at events and dinners by eating itty bitty bites of “bad” foods. I understand that she was practicing moderation but it seemed very, very disordered to me when I stepped back and looked at it through different eyes. She always had food with her and did not live in the moment EVER. I think this is somewhat of an obsession to always try to be one step ahead of food in case – god forbid – you eat something unplanned.

    I found myself trying to do the same thing and then beating myself up with guilt when I could not control and restrain myself as much as she did. I am not trying to make her sound evil or anything. It was just unrealistic for me to try to live the way that she lives especially when I think she has food issues of her own. I had seen so much of her life in food that it was seeping into my own decisions though, and that’s when I decided to stop reading her blog. It was TOO in depth down to every single bite and sip documented, recorded and photographed apparently without ever having a slip up or going overboard even once. I could not live up to that standard (not that anyone was making me) and felt bad about it so in the end rather than being healthy for me it was just a cycle of guilt. I try to follow blogs now where I can still get ideas for healthy foods or recipes but with honest people who are not disordered, who have good and bad days so that I don’t feel like they are superwoman and that I can never have the discipline they have.

    I think the line of responsibility is just taking a step back to look at your blog objectively and think about what kind of example you are setting, how you come across and if what you are writing is healthy for you and others.

    1. @Wendy: I can totally sympathize with feeling that bloggers set standards that are hard to live up to. But there are lots of people out there (bloggers and non-bloggers alike) who live lives that would be hard to replicate. In this case, I think the issue that you had with KERF had more to do with the social comparisons that you were making, more so than anything about KERF per se. It’s easy to externalize and say that the problem is that Kath is dishonest or disordered (which I don’t personally believe), but in the end, the real trick to dealing with “superwomen” (and I know a lot of wonderful superwomen) is to focus on your own strengths and what makes you great. And I bet that you’ll realize that there a lot more things that you do on a daily basis that are more “super” than eating overnight oats and you’ll be able to relate to these blogs in a more detached and healthy way.

      1. R:@Cindy: I wasn’t trying to replicate her life to the letter which I said. I became slowly influenced by seeing how she lived in great detail. The problem with your comment and with this issue in general is that you first say you understand but then literally tell me that I’m projecting (or externalizing as you said) onto KERF, then you blame social comparisons and basically shift all responsibility off of her blog somehow. I don’t blame her 100% that would be ridiculous, but why is this question still being asked if nobody wants to actually hear from people like me who have been affected by these blogs? I’m honestly wondering what the point of this all is. I am really tired of this argument going in circles and I regret commenting in the first place. To the blog owner: Feel free to delete this whole thread. I would if I could.

        1. @Wendy:

          I love this comment and I don’t think people DO want to hear about experiences such as yours! Which is unfortunate because I believe it’s way more common than people care to think about. I often feel like I regret commenting when my opinion is either a) invalidated or b) attacked. But just know that there’s other regular readers out here who agree with you, or at least understand and appreciate where you’re coming from.

          1. @Danielle: Thank you Danielle. I didn’t post my experience just to have people agree with me or give me a pity party because I consider myself such a helpless victim or anything, not at all! I don’t know if that is how it came across but i really didn’t mean it that way. I did feel invalidated and belittled by the previous commenter though. At the end of the comment she diminishes my feelings about Kath being a “superwoman” by saying that there’s nothing super about eating overnight oats every day. No, there isn’t anything special about that but having the restrictive control that Kath has and apparently never going overboard (even at parties, weddings or events) DOES seem super TO ME. It probably seems super to a lot of people who have weight problems. Also her saying that it was my problem for comparing myself to social standards or whatever – who is responsible for setting a social standard on the internet for healthy living? I would definitely say that blogs are way more influential online than anything else right now.

            Obviously I still read healthy living blogs but like I said I try to find blogs where the people admit failures, talk about their issues and need encouragement just like everyone else. That’s just what I prefer in a blog. I don’t fault someone for loving a blog like Kath’s because maybe that’s what they need.

            I just wish people would understand that by putting -some- responsibility on a blogger it doesn’t make them a bad person and there is no reason to jump to their defense rabidly.

  12. As a blog reader (and an adult), I feel like it is my responsibility to take anything that is printed or said for that matter, either by a doctor, blogger, professional, etc. for what it’s worth. I use my own head and decide if it’s applicable to me or not. For me, health blogs are more a voyeuristic pass time. 🙂 I love to see what everyone is doing with their time and eating.

  13. I give Murphy props! I have a English Bulldog and I know for dogs with smushed faces long walks let alone two miles is a big work out! My dog is usually exhausted before a mile. 🙂 Good luck to you both!

  14. I think readers need to be responsible for how they take blogger advice or opinions. Since I think it’s the responsibility of the reader I don’t necessarily think that disclaimers are necessary, but they can also be beneficial for both the safety of the reader and blogger.

  15. I think people *readers/audience* should be burdened with the responsibility of checking people’s credentials before believing or following them blindly. I personally think personal responsibility trumps all. I don’t believe bloggers should have to put a disclaimer, because even if you were to say “eat this and get thin!!” it’s someone’s free will to listen and act on your suggestions. Basically, I think people are lame, looking to blame anyone and anything and it’s very generous to put disclaimers, but America needs to wise up. #justsayin 😉

    1. @Sara: True, some people are lame, and some are young, impressionable, naive, uneducated, or like my mom who still doesn’t quite understand the “internets.”

      Failure to take “responsibility” can stem from a variety of factors and we shouldn’t be so quick to jump to the conclusion that people are lame or stupid or lazy if they don’t check out the blogger bios. Let’s help these people out by making everything super clear.

  16. In my Blogging 101 session I suggested having a disclaimer on your blog in general to “cover your azz” for any and all cases in which someone is reading for advice/tips. It’s a “blogger best practice” kind of thing we should all do.

    At the same time, if I email a blogger with a question I don’t just want them to say “talk to a profession”. I am asking you because I want to know your opinion.

    I guess it’s a case by case thing…

  17. I love this discussion! Unfortunately I think there is a big lack of personal responsibility in today’s world (especially in the US) and wish we didn’t have to make disclaimers at all. I don’t make disclaimers because I don’t “prescribe nutrition” (a legal term in NC that I’ve learned well). The only reason I would post a disclaimer is to protect myself from legal action, but I feel pretty comfortable that everything I post wouldn’t lead me into legal trouble anyways.
    I kind of agree that it’s sad how there has to be disclaimers on everything nowadays.

  18. I’m also running Boston’s Run To Remember this Sunday! I’m really pumped– it’s my first half! 🙂 I’m fired up! Have fun!

  19. Fantastic post, Tina!

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with including a disclaimer in your posts — frankly, it precludes you from ever being slapped with a lawsuit. You have to protect your own assets.

    The discussion about ‘blog influence’ is really fascinating to me. I understand that many people read healthy living blogs to gain inspiration, learn new recipes, etc. This is a wonderful thing — the exchange between author and reader. I personally, however, do not view bloggers as ‘models’ for how to live my life. They’re just people, too! They have their own sets of preferences, opinions, and tastes. As a result, I don’t measure myself against other bloggers, and I don’t internalize the notion that I, too, need to compete in an Ironman — or eat wheat germ with every meal — in order to live healthfully. (Just two examples). We all have our own unique bodies and our own unique mentalities. What is right for one person, or one blogger, may not be right for another. I don’t think I’m any less impressionable than other people, but I just don’t feel an overwhelming need to model my own habits over those I see captured in blogs. I love blogs because they introduce me to new foods, workout tips, etc. … not because I think they provide a template for how to lead my life.

    1. @Lauren: Totally agree too! I’m all about personal responsibility, but I think that by adding the disclaimer you’re mostly just legally protecting yourself and that’s way more important. I never take disclaimers personally, I just see them as a legal thing and also as a fitness professional I really appreciate them as I feel like bloggers should do that so they understand that it’s often personal opinions and they should come see people like us when they want a professional’s advice! 🙂

      Also, remember in the 90s when people were claiming that kids were doing crazy stuff because of Marilyn Manson, etc.? I kind of think of this all in the same vein: no one else is responsible for anyone’s actions. Yes, you are an influence on people, but if they don’t see the good work you are doing here and want to take away the negative that is very much a reader’s responsibility and probably is a sign of an imbalance in their life that they should work on themselves, not take out on you. That being said, I think it’s great for bloggers to be sensitive to not offending people — but honestly if you are an offensive blogger, you probably don’t have a lot of readers anyway!

  20. Legally I think you should post one if you are giving any sort of food or fitness advice just to be safe… no one wants to be sued. In terms of reader/blogger responsibility I think it’s 50/50. The reader should know that he/she should take everything they read with a grain of salt, but at the same time the blogger should know that there are many impressionable people out there. I think a disclaimer is a great way for a lot of lifestyle bloggers to say “hey, this is just my opinion” or “this isn’t every last morsel I eat, just the highlights” is beneficial to some.

  21. I was struck by how passionate that commenter was about disclaimers — but after initially disagreeing with her, I thought she had an interesting point about enabling people. I’m no psychologist, and I’d prefer to err on the side of being cautious.

    But it certainly made me think! I liked your response that if you really wanted to, you could offer disclaimers on every post because someone, somewhere, is going to be upset or triggered. I think trying your best to be responsible and responding to people who have a respectful disagreement is about as good as it gets.

    Good topic!

  22. Speaking purely from a business perspective, I think disclaimers are necessary. There, unfortunately, could be people who take what a blogger says as gospel truth, and then get injured and want compensation.
    I think reader responsibility is huge, and it *should* be a given that the blogger is speaking from personal experience only… but there are many readers who don’t feel that way, I’m sure.
    It’s a tricky gray area. One would hope the reader holds herself responsible, but one can’t control other people’s thinking. Because of this, I (reluctantly) think it is primarily the blogger’s responsibility to be honest and forthright about her expertise and knowledge, and where the limits are.

  23. This is a big can of worms!
    It’s a gray area, bloggers should let people know they aren’t experts for those readers that may assume wrongly but the reader should also be critical and not take everything at face value for themselves. If only there was a an easier way to meet in the middle. sigh.

  24. As with any profession, you need to CYA. I think that a disclaimer is the smart thing to do. Blogs are still relatively a new thing. God only knows what people will sue for. Think about that lady and the mcdonalds cup of coffee…
    I am an RN, and i often wonder about my legal responsiblity if i were to start a blog. Afterall, i am licensed by the state. I would definately consult my insurance company and lawyer if i did to see if i would need any additonal insurance to cover any potential liabilities.

  25. There are a lot of casual readers out there who don’t necessarily take the time to see if the blogger is a professional or not. And, readers are going to blogs to essentially learn about new things. I feel it depends on the topic and how much detail the blogger goes into. If you’re giving details on a training schedule, a diet, method of treatment for an injury you have, things like that, it’s good to give a little disclaimer. Why not? But if it’s just brief mention of something without details, I don’t think it’s necessary.

  26. As a long time reader of Healthy Living Blogs, I can only speak for myself when I say that if I don’t agree with a particular lifestyle that somoene projects trought their blogs, I simply stop reading it. Your blog (I read a few others), is the only one I read everyday. I think that your way of living a healthy life is simple and you share your struggles as well and I think that’s what makes you more “real” to us, readers.

    Keep up the great work Tina 🙂

  27. As a RD, I must say you handled this well. Disclaimers are always important. I give disclaimers myself. I will let people (not patients) know if it is my personal or professional opinion.

  28. I really appreciate this post.
    When I first started reading healthy living blogs, I tried to be exactly like the blogger. I wanted to look like them, eat like them, workout like them. However, I was only 10 years old so I was easily influenced. Thankfully, my parents intervened when I lost a lot of weight and started hurting myself with working out way too much. Now, I’m inspired by healthy living blogs like yours and they are amazing for recipes. I love your blog 🙂

  29. Gosh, it seems to me that people are forgetting that your blog is just that: yours.

    I appreciate your disclaimers and your constant honesty, and I love reading about what works for you. But at the end of the day, everyone’s body is different. It’s rare that somebody will find a healthy living blog and go on to live in the exact same way; it’s all about what works for us as individuals. Your advice and the sharing of your experiences are hugely helpful for heaps of people, no doubt, but the people who wrote the hunger diaries article were clearly overlooking the fact that you are a blogger; you are blogging about your life and your experiences and there is absolutely no way you should have to tailor that against your own will. I’m so glad you got a chance to answer some questions and talk frankly about the issue; you are wonderful, and I’m willing to bet there are a good few (thousand!) people who agree.

  30. I wholeheartedly agree that it is NOT the responsibility of the blog owner to add a disclaimer, warning, notice, etc. to a (or every) post….its just absurd. There are so many things (books, magazines, blogs, web sites, tv shows, movies, music) that suggest negative things that are either made up or stories of real life that do not offer a warning before listening/reading. Its like that old saying “If she said jump off the bridge, would you” – obviously a reader has to take responsibility for themselves in every other part of their life, why shouldn’t it be the same way while reading a blog? The reader should KNOW while going on the www. and visiting Carrots N Cake that obviously it is not a professional news site, a professional medical site, a professional government site, etc! If they are going to decide to go out and buy a pug because Tina from CNC has one, but then gets it home and gives it garlic and onions which makes it sick, it is NOT Tina’s fault because she never said on her web site “If you own a pug, dont feed it onions and garlic.” I mean how irresponsible to blame someone else for your shortcomings. If you are on a blog where you know it is a PERSONAL blog, obviously the blog writers are submitting their daily life, weather it be professional advice or not, in the end it boils down to the fact that we are all responsible for ourselves and our decisions/actions. Its not the magazines or the news or the newspaper that force readers to go on to CNC daily and read what Tina has to say, its because Tina writes an awesome blog and people want to know her and see a glimpse into her life for whatever reason it may be. But just like anything else, it only takes one loud mouth to ruin something good.

    1. @christa:

      “The reader should KNOW while going on the www. and visiting Carrots N Cake that obviously it is not a professional news site, a professional medical site, a professional government site, etc!”

      Or how about this, for the small percentage of people for whom it’s not obvious, why not make it obvious by including a disclaimer? And now everyone is on the same page.

  31. Being in recovery from anorexia, I really appreciate the disclaimers. I don’t think they should really bother any else that much and definitely don’t cause any harm- only good. I have stopped reading blogs for the most part (as part of my recovery), but when I am feeling strong and I do want to read blogs, I ALWAYS appreciate the disclaimers. They help in my recovery.

  32. As a reader I do feel that, yes, it is my responsibility to know that a blog is usually one person’s opinion based oh her/his experience. I also believe that 95% of blog readers feel the same way. HOWEVER, for your own protection, I think you need to keep the disclaimers. There is that 5% who just might follow the advice of a blogger and then hold her responsible if anything happens. In our lawsuit-happy culture, you simply cannot be too careful. You just don’t need that kind of headache, and I’m sure all of us here would hate to see that happen!

  33. What a surprise! I had no idea about the whole maria claire articular! I just caught up on all the news! I have only been following your blog and others for maybe 6 months now but I know for a fact that everyone has done nothing but help me than hurt me! I started a blog about a month ago and now fear all this nonsense will hit me! When I post a workout or recipe I think of it as if I am just passing along an idea to a friend!

    To me this all just sounds like a fast food debate. Yes, fast food makes you fat and bla bla bla but that does not mean you have to eat it! They influence you by marketing every day to go chow down but in the end it is the person decision to pull up to that drive threw window or not. Does that make sense? It is the same for blogs, just because we say this is what we do doesn’t mean we are forcing you to do it! If you don’t like it don’t read it! 😉 I never have really thought about my responsibly as a blogger but when creating my blog I new I was creating it to give someone else what you and other bloggers game me. A place to escape, share, encourage, and just have fun! 🙂

  34. I know it has been said but wanted to add my thought too- I think you have a responsibility as a blogger not to give the impression that you are more of an expert than you are (or not to lie that you are an expert) but readers have the responsibility to be informed. I agree that there is reader responsibility- be skeptical, be informed, and don’t take any one source as “gospel”.

  35. Most readers aren’t idiots however there are the few people that could take it upon themselves to sue you for following advice presented on your blog. A disclaimer is purely there to protect you. 99.99% of readers understand that. It’s those few crazies that bloggers have to worry about!

  36. Great post! I think disclaimers are very important. I don’t believe that we are assuming that our readers are “idiots”, we are just letting them know that we are not an expert in that particular topic, rather we are sharing our opinion. Readers come to blogs for advice and they deserve to know who they are getting the advice from.

  37. I agree there needs to be both blogger responsibility and reader responsibility. As a blogger if I’m giving advice about something outside my profession then I will put a disclaimer. However if it is my day to day life the reader needs to be responsible for their own life and to live what is best for them and not just what is best for me.

  38. I say better safe than sorry. Sure, it might seem a little egotistical to think that you have such a big influence on someone else, but YOU NEVER KNOW. You don’t want there to be an instance where someone just listened to everything you wrote without consulting a professional. :/

  39. I think it’s appropriate to clarify your qualifications before giving any sort of advice. Although I can see how it’d get old and obvious, it seems like the best approach in case you have a new reader!

  40. I think disclaimers are good idea because we do live in a litigious society.

    Having said that, I feel that readers are responsible for themselves. They should (and most do) realize that a blog is a slice of someone’s life, a peek into someone’s soul, someone who is merely sharing their own experience, and not affirming how everyone should live their life.

    Really enjoy your posts!

  41. Gosh, so many things to think about here… and when I first starting blogging, I NEVER realized that all of these issues were out there!

    Even though I am an RD, I am still weary of flashing my credentials and giving out advice on the blog… What may be good advice for one person, could be completely bad advice for another, just like there is no ‘one size fits all diet plan’.

    I generally try to make generic, ‘this is what works for me statements’ and *hope* that the reader will judge for themselves whether or not the ‘advice’ is appropriate for them. I think the responsibility is shared between blogger and reader… but there certainly is A LOT of gray area…

  42. I think a disclaimer is a good idea, especially for things like diet and exercise. Not because readers are idiots but as a reminder that everyone’s body is different and everyone should exercise caution.

    Also, by arguing that things like disclaimers are unnecessary, some bloggers (obviously not you Tina or the other great blogs I read) refuse to come to terms with the fact that they are role models to other people. By denying that they are role models (remember that is something put upon a person, not usually proclaimed by the individual) they attempt to abscond responsibility for someone else following their example.

    Just my two sense. Keep it up with the disclaimers, you never know who is reading CNC or other blogs.

  43. I know that article was incredibly tough for your bloggers, but on the plus side, I thank that article for introducing me to all of you! Honestly, that was how I found you and the other bloggers mentioned…and now I love following all of you! 🙂 Don’t worry…just positive feedback here. As they good, any publicity is good publicity. 😉

  44. Disclaimer: First of all, I just have to say that I haven’t had the chance to read through all 111 of these great comments, so there’s a chance someone else may have already brought this up… 🙂

    That being said, I do think there’s an additional issue at work in this entire debate that few, if any, are touching on with a ten foot pole. And that is money/success. While my personal opinion is that disclaimers are just the kind and responsible thing to do for any blogger detailing a particular lifestyle, a blogger that makes money (particularly one that has gained any sort of public notoriety) finds him/herself in a particularly complicated and unique position.

    Look, activities like book signings, public speaking engagements, product endorsements or corporate partnering lend an additional air of real world credibility to these self-made bloggers’ lifestyles and opinions. They just do. Because of this, I believe that *professional* bloggers have a particular responsibility to temper the assumptions that those who encounter them at the height of their success might make regarding their level of training/expertise.

    Do you all know what I mean? I say none of this to be critical, and I think Tina does a fine of job of including appropriate reminders and disclaimers, but I do think that some of the discussion regarding reader responsibility in these comments applies better to purely hobbyist blogs. Just like with people, one size or solution does not fit all…

  45. In my opinion, its better to play it safe with a disclaimer then be held liable in future! That thing about it being offensive to the intellect of readers is crazy- some people can be so sensitive! Regardless, even with doctors, I don’t think we should strictly follow online advice. At the end of the day, you NEVER know who is typing behind the computer.
    If something were to go wrong, it’s 100% the reader’s problem, not blogger’s. Whether it’s TV, magazines, books, or websites: there are always going to be various messages being put across. It’s YOUR life, YOUR body so it’s up to YOU how YOU interpret it and apply it to YOUR life. My opinion might be partial because I am a blogger but I really don’t think it’s fair to put the blame on someone else. At the end of day, bloggers are individuals too and what works for one blogger may not work for another.

  46. Pug 5K?!! THat is TOO funny! Almost as funny as the picture of Murphy totally beat below it! I was cracking up!!

    Blogger responsibility, a tricky subject.. I think you (and some people in the audience) made some good points in that talk. You have to have some responsibility but then, there’s only so much you can do..

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