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Charles M. Madigan

Charles M. Madigan

`Info-pimping' older than any of us caught



Published February 27, 2007

Here's a mistake so stupid it has become a whole column.

I failed at trying to make something up. That's hard to get your head around, I know, but it is true.

In what I viewed at the time as an explosion of cleverness, I announced I was inventing a word to cover some egregious media situations. It wasn't in the dictionary so I figured, clear sailing!

I thought for a while about what to call the people who create and spread rumors as news.

For some reason, the word "info-slut" settled on me and I decided that would be what I would use. Then I concluded there was some sexist connotation to the use of the word "slut," so I decided against it.

I settled instead on "info-pimp."

My big mistake, the one for which I am saying I am sorry to the blogosphere, the newspaper-o-sphere and all other o'spheres too, was to say I was inventing the word. I was not. I was displaying my ignorance. I am not certain when and where the word was invented, but it has been in use for some time.

It has shown up in a lot of ways in a lot of places. One "info-pimp" takes you to a Russian language Web site where, I think, it might be providing information about actual pimps.

There are lots of other examples too.

Short version: Someone else made it up long ago, not necessarily to serve the purpose I attached to it, but made it up anyhow.

Here is why this is a big deal.

The column was aimed at building an argument for old mainstream media and the way it works. It puts news here. It puts opinion there. It checks on this and it checks on that. It's what separates the Tribune, I argued, from other places, layers of people checking on things.

But they didn't check the Internet for the term "info-pimp" and neither did I or we all would have known I was not inventing anything. I am not blaming this on anyone but me. Writers who blame editors for not "catching" mistakes are just trying to pass the buck.

People who write commentary have a lot of flex room to use language, but sometimes it's like a high-wire act working without a net.

I think I plummeted like the Flying Wallendas and the fault was mine.

What is really irritating about this is that I know better. You don't say you are claiming invention of something that already exists. A little rewording would have fixed the problem. So what is on display here is not deviousness, dishonesty or any other sleight of hand.

It was stupidity and laziness, and for that, I am sorry.

I want to extend my first apology to the Tribune. Then I want to apologize to the readers of the column and finally, I want to apologize to the bloggers.

Thanks for catching this blunder. It was a blogger call last week that drew my attention to the problem.

Hubris really is our worst media sin in many ways.

 



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