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Late Night: Blogger Ethics! Gatekeeping!

How will we know who’s really writing the stories with all those anonymous people on the Internet commenting under names like DoTheDougie36?

Journatic CEO Brian Timpone says fake bylines were often used for the company’s real estate stories, and clients — including the Chicago Tribune — asked to run those pieces on their hyperlocal sites. Journatic said that was okay, but never removed — or apparently told clients about — the made-up bylines.

“It was an oversight on our part — we should have addressed that,” Timpone tells the Chicago Tribune’s Robert Channick.

I swear to God, nothing ever annoyed me so much as the “real name” argument back in the early days of political blogging like 4,000 years ago. Because it was like pseudonyms didn’t exist, I mean, like people really thought Mark Twain was Mark Twain. Like we’d never had this argument at least a hundred times a day.

Now, consistency in a pseudonym can be important, as in sockpuppeting and whatnot, but acting like using a fake name was some kind of brand-new Internet Thing that invalidated any argument the person with the fake name was making was just stupid. It harkened back to the same attack establishment journalism tried to make on the Internet in the first place, that We’re Just Better Because We Are, regardless of the actual factual truth of anything.

I don’t care what you call yourself. I care what you say. Can your statement be verified in any way? Do you link back to your sources, so that I can see them for myself? Do you make analysis that is borne out by actual events? Or do you regularly say stuff that is monumentally full of shit, such that the only meaning your name has is to signal me to flip right on by you? I don’t care what you call yourself then, and neither does anybody else, because it’s over.

So let’s stop acting like there’s something sacred about names divorced from what those names are saying, especially when shit like this Journatic clusterfuck happens, proving that sainted traditional journalism is no better at this than anybody else.



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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.