Don't Dis Bloggers
I received an e-mail on Tuesday from Sid Johnson. He identified himself as an intern at Art Science Research Lab who was engaged in fact checking for two media ethics sites. He said he was looking into a claim made by Chicago Tribune columnist Charles Madigan in a Feb. 6, 2007 article that he invented the term "info-pimps."
I was intrigued, having used this term myself in a short article I wrote for Wired magazine back in 1997, as Johnson pointed out.
I was also a bit wary. Those claiming to represent media ethics, noble though they may be, still remind me of the Spanish Inquisition and the slew of cop corruption films that involve internal affairs officers. Not only that, but one of Johnson's questions seemed rather loaded.
With the proliferation of informal words in the blogosphere, how do you feel about Madigan, a thirty-year veteran at the Tribune, claiming this word as his own?
Clearly the implication is that anyone with so much experience should know better. I was being invited to say as much.
Tempting as it was to fire of some snarky reply (that would, I suspected, end up in a blog post somewhere), I responded, "As for Mr.Madigan's claim to have coined the term, we all make mistakes. I hope he does the right thing and offers a correction."
As it turned out, he did.
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!
The irony here is that Madigan committed this sin of journalistic hubris in an column railing against the shortcomings of para-journalists, which is to say those who play fast and loose with the truth such as Fox News.
I am angry at the sneering use of the phrase "mainstream media," by bloggers. I am also upset by the obvious decline in standards that would allow a ridiculous slander about Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to become news for a little while until reality intervened.
Info-pimps trade in whatever they hear.
You want a life full of unfulfilling information? Go that way.
It's better to hang with people who at least have a passion about checking things out.
You just feel better in the morning.
If there's a lesson here it's to walk with humility through the blogosphere, because the world is watching for the first sign of weakness.