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Positive Feedback ISSUE 6
april/may 2003


Ethical Principles and Guidelines for Members of the Positive Feedback Online Community

(AKA "The BIG TEN"!)

The following statement is what ALL of our writers and contributors are required to follow if they choose to write and contribute to Positive Feedback Online. We off this to our readers as part of our Editorial and Reviewing statements.

Revised 3/15/03 by DWR

To make sure that we all understand some fundamental principles that govern the work that we do at Positive Feedback Online, the editors present the following points. Please make sure that you as an editor/reviewer/contributor conduct yourself accordingly, as you may assume that we will be mightily perplexed if you do not...

Number 1: No hardware review project is to be initiated without first checking with either Dave Clark or I, or our designated hardware editor. Without exception.

This means ESPECIALLY that you should NOT contact a designer/manufacturer for review sample(s) unless you have our authorization to do so. Other members of the PFO editorial group may already be working with the product/company, or I might consider the product/company to have sufficient exposure already, or there may even be a (God help us) political factor or three that you should be aware of before making contact with a designer or manufacturer. Who knows? I might even have a better idea or project for you...

There are also questions of logistics (those 1200 pound speakers might be better reviewed by your PFO brother or sister of equal qualification who happens to live 2,000 miles closer to the manufacturer, or we might want to ship it to you, then to someone else); the possibility of assembling a review panel in limited instances; questions of liability, insurance, and costs to be properly covered with the manufacturer; the need (in some cases) to direct designers/manufacturers to our National Advertising Manager for rate cards, ad contracts, etc.

In other words, do NOT "wing it" and get back to us later, amigos. Period.

Number 2: No music review project or requests to be placed on "free review sample" lists shall be attempted without notifying both Dave Clark and I.

There are plenty enough "music reviewers" in the sweaty world of proliferating ‘phile publications as it is; frankly, I wonder that more of the small audiophile labels don’t just wither away and die just based on the freebies that they’re handing out to an ever-increasing number of "reviewers." I don’t propose that PFO add to the problem. If you are quite sure that you are called to review music, then all you have to do is impress Dave or me, and we’ll do what we can for you.

Which is not a guarantee, by the way; just a statement that we’ll try to help you get some samples your way.

By the way: Both Dave and I are busy hombres. If we don’t get things done quickly enough for you, by all means be persistent — but don’t be a pest. If a label isn’t responsive, if you aren’t getting your LP/SACD fix, well, you might just have to go out and BUY them.

No one ever said this audiophile review thing was easy.

Number 3: Art is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration.

Which means that I expect that writers will WRITE, reviewers will REVIEW, photographers will PHOTOGRAPH, artists will ART, and editors will—well, you get the picture. Don’t just hang around the masthead, basking in the glow—have at it! That’s not to say that you have to do something for every issue (far from it), but rather that if you have a "go" on a project, GET IT DONE. This is a volunteer effort, and there’s no money to go with the "glory," but if you say you’ll do it, then do it.

Dilettantes ‘n dead wood will not stay on the PFO masthead. Hope that’s not you.

Number 4: Respect the deadlines.

Your editors hope that this one is self-evident. Old pros tend to violate it more than newbies, ironically enough.

Old pros: take note!

Number 5:   All "accommodation pricing" transactions involving review gear are to be cleared by either yours truly or Dave Clark, personally. NO EQUIPMENT IS TO BE PURCHASED VIA "ACCOMMODATION TO POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE WRITERS/EDITORS" WITHOUT EITHER DAVE CLARK’S OR MY EXPRESS APPROVAL.

The reason for this is quite simple: It is far too easy for misunderstandings or allegations of improprieties to get out of hand unless I oversee such transactions. There is nothing wrong with accommodation to legitimate members of the audiophile press, provided that sufficient oversight is in place, and provided that safeguards against wrongdoing are active and effective. Both you and the magazine must be protected against the kind of nonsense/corruption that has occurred from time to time in the industry; let us help you in this.

By the way: NEVER, NEVER attempt to negotiate an even more favorable price for accommodation equipment by "shopping" accommodation prices around. E.g., "Say, Fred, that’s a good deal that you offered me, but as an OFFICIAL PFO REVIEWER I can get it at 50% off. Can you beat that price for me??!!"

This, believe it or not, actually happened with one Positive Feedback reviewer. The manufacturer’s US representative still will not talk with us—ten years later—and the reviewer was immediately outcast from PF forever by yours truly.

The reviewer couldn’t believe that I would do this—didn’t think that he had done anything really wrong.


We also note that the standard "one year rule" applies to all review equipment that is purchased by PFO editors/reviewers/contributors: Any accommodation purchases must not be re-sold for a period of at least one year, without exception. Such equipment must not be re-sold for more than the accommodation price. Any attempt to hide such sales via the use of a pseudonym or "handle" on the Internet or a second party/proxy sale will be treated as a violation of this policy, and will lead to your termination from PFO.

A final note: Don’t be a gear junkie or a pest.

You do NOT have to review EVERY new "greatest thing."

And do NOT bug your editors or industry sources for review samples. Believe it or not, you are not entitled to "one of everything."


You will NOT promise a favorable review in exchange for anything. Ever.

You do, and you’re gone; it’ll be my boot chasing your hindmost parts out the door.

And yes, I have done this in several cases over the years.

Number 7: Be as timely as possible in reviewing and returning equipment—and NEVER GET INTO ARGUMENTS WITH DESIGNERS, MANUFACTURERS, DEALERS, OR DISTRIBUTORS.

Dave and I both know how hard it can be to stay on track with review projects, but we ask that you work very hard to get equipment back to the supplier as expeditiously as possible. If there is to be a long-term review project, let Dave or I know this, so that we are aware of what you’re doing. This will protect PFO from gaining a reputation for hanging onto everything longer than necessary.

As to the "no arguments" rule…nothing can poison reputation/working relationships faster than getting into a slugfest with a supplier. Reviewers/contributors are not to do this, ever. If you are having a problem with a source, then contact either Dave or me, so that we can help to resolve the issue authoritatively.

We do not want to be called in after the fact…mopping up after hostile/irresponsible contributors have done the damage is not going to be appreciated by your editors.

Nor tolerated.

Number 8: Do not take the name of the magazine in vain.

This means no false representations, no attempt to negotiate on behalf of the magazine, no attempt to encumber or commit the magazine, no rumor-mongering involving the magazine/your humble editors. This includes indiscretions on the Internet.

We’re all free agents, of course, and this is not intended to stifle or inhibit personal expression or opinion, of which we all have tons and tons. It’s just a reminder not to involve PFO as a battering ram, wedge, shield, shiv, or nuke during some personal crusade. I have had writers try this as well…the ones who did are no longer with us.

We have all worked too hard to establish the good reputation of PFO... don’t get in the way of our efforts, please.

Number 9: Be careful what you say publicly about others.

If your name is in print, as it is at PFO, your opinions and comments about others can cause some real shock waves. There are plenty of times when PFO is going to cause necessary controversy, slaughter some sacred cows, and shovel shit out of the Stygian Stables. Don’t squander our larger mission with tantrums or personal outbursts, and don’t be too quick to take offense.

I’ve probably been insulted and attacked more than any of you in my tenure at PF/PFO, I do believe; I don’t allow it to bother me, and pay no attention to the (often humorous!) wrath of others. Fine audio is full of this sort of thing, it seems; get used to it, look for the humor in it all, and try to find real friends. That’s what this is all about.

By the way: This includes both fine audio shows and the Internet. Especially.

Number 10: When in doubt—about anything—call or email your editors.

That’s what Dave Clark and I are here for.