Thursday, June 19, 2008

Who am I?

Today's post will not be as existential as that title may imply. Instead, it is prompted by an e-mail I received from Kyle Leonard, managing editor of Triblocal, a new concept in local reporting that is "sponsored" by the Chicago Tribune. I was pretty critical of its print edition last week in a post and in a letter to the Public Editor of the Tribune. (Given my level of readership, I'm surprised even to have been noticed by Mr. Leonard, but it is one of the vagaries of the Internet that, when you Google "kyle leonard" triblocal, my humble post comes up fifth; bizarrely, my old post on "shannon carlson" "us cellular" still comes up first, so there's no accounting for the Internet.)

At any rate, Mr. Leonard sent me an e-mail:
Nice blog...we put our names on our writing. Why don't you?
I responded:
Thanks for the kind words.

As for your question, I gave that very issue a lot of thought when I began writing my blog. I weighed the pros and cons, and very narrowly fell on the side of anonymity, largely because I exist in a different frame from that which you, as an employee of a large newspaper, inhabit.

The only real pro I could come up with in "publishing" under my real name is that doing so might lend some credibility that I may not have, at least to some people (though, in an Internet world in which new identities can be created and discarded, that may be less important now than it has been). But my real name carries no cachet, no particular identity that would add to or detract from my believability. I am a fairly average person of no fame, of no particular reputation, and my identity is of no more importance than the name "Androcass." Would my credentials, such as they are, be more acceptable if they could be checked? Would you be more likely to believe that I have two master's degrees, or 25 years of experience in business and technical companies, or have run 10 races of marathon length or longer, if I signed my real name? Perhaps, but if you saw my readership numbers, you would know that establishing my bona fides to my vast public is a pretty low priority for me.

And what of the cons? The greatest of these is that I might feel constrained in what I can say based on my real situation, whereas Androcass, living outside of this world, can say what he likes. As an example, as a real person who finds himself in a precarious employment situation, I probably have to consider a job with any company that would have me, even, say, United Airlines.

As Androcass, I have called United Airlines "perhaps the worst-run major company in the history of the U.S." I believe that to be true, but I would hardly like that to show up in a pre-employment Google search when I am a finalist for a job. Cop-out? Probably, but a reasonable one to me given the constraints in which I live.

For I do not have the luxury of being backed up by a large media concern, with its legal staff and layers of editors. I don't profess to be a journalist, and, even if I were, that would have no protective force when it came time for UA to turn me down for employment because I made a negative comment about them. And, though I try very hard to be even-handed and reasonable in what I write, I haven't the resources to research libel laws, nor to defend myself against them if someone got it into their heads to object to something I write.

And there is some precedent in the mainstream press for my stance. We don't have to go all the way back to Publius to establish this (though this quote from Federalist 1 seems apropos: "My motives must remain in the depository of my own breast: My arguments will be open to all, and may be judged of by all."). The Chicago Tribune itself prints unsigned editorials, a stance only slightly mitigated by its annual exposure of the editorial board. Clearly, your employer finds some justification for that practice.

It is not my desire here to be contentious at all, merely to explicate my thinking on this subject. However, I respectfully point out that your own publication is not exactly pure on this point. Last week's Naperville Triblocal featured a front-page article by "Naper Days 2008 PR Marketing," which is only slightly more of an identifier than "Androcass." Furthermore, knowing a name is often insufficient to discern the intent of the writing behind the name, something I have read that you have had to personally deal with in the recent past in your political coverage.

You may think my reasons less than convincing, which is your right. After all, your name is right out there for the world to see. The difference, of course, is that you are paid for what you do, and have an amendment and a big company to back you up. None of those applies to me; until one or more of them do, I shall remain veiled in my alternate persona. I'll leave what few readers I have to decide whether that invalidates the value of my opinions.

Thanks for writing.

Bonus coverage:

In a strange bit of synchronicity(??), I received another e-mail on the same topic, from a Frank Skeffington:
Why isn't your name posted on your blog?

Are you ashamed of your opinions or afraid to be associated with them?

Why do you not assert responsibility for your opinions? You have no trouble posting them? Do you fear accountability? Why linger in the shadows?

Why do you criticize people by name but hide your identity?

Did your parents not love you enough?

A friend thinks you were abused as a child.

Did one of your relatives abuse you, perhaps your father or a sick uncle?

Are you a coward?

What are you so afraid of?

I don't have much to say, except to point out that Frank Skeffington is a character in the novel and movie The Last Hurrah, so it is possible that the very person casting aspersions on my motivations is him- or herself pseudonymical. Otherwise, I'll just offer the opinion that whomever is sending e-mail under is almost certainly not qualified as a practitioner of psychoanalysis, and leave it at that.


Anonymous said...

You need to shut it down. No one cares what you think. You are not important, nor are you qualified to offer an informed opinion about anything.

The worst part about the internet is that weirdos like you come out of the woodwork.

Anonymous said...

I think you are mistaken about quite a few things, but I don't care what your real name is, and support your right to publish your mistaken views under a pseudonym.

Androcass said...

Well...thanks...kind of...mcfnord.

Actually, I support anyone's right to have an opinion, and am always willing to reconsider my views in the light of new information.

The first comment on this post has no informational content, so will have no effect on what I write. I don't "need" to do anything, and I have no idea how Anonymous is evaluating my qualifications.

I would think that reasoned comments, even if incorrect, are far more positive than random rants, and contribute more to the Internet than content-less screeds.

Anonymous said...

What's your opinion of HR 5924?

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