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Bloggers Anonymous

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Salon.com had an interesting article last week about anonymous bloggers (it’s part of their premium site so you may have to suffer through an ad to see it). The article discusses how several blogs with anonymous authors have risen to prominence within journalism and examines where they fit in the context of modern media. It raises some pretty interesting points of view regarding the blogging community:

It takes a certain courage to shoot half-cocked into the media landscape like that. Or does it? These and other bloggers have made names for themselves by having no names at all — and by using the safety and security of their secret identities to spread gossip, make accusations and levy the most vicious of insults with impunity.

and

Not surprisingly, journalism experts suggest anonybloggers are operating outside of any reasonable ethical line. “One of the things that’s going to have to become a standard for the Internet is, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to be identified,” says Alex Jones, director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. “Anonymity is almost always, for the mainstream anyway, something that says, ‘Be very, very careful.'”

I raise this as a point of discussion because Blogcritics has a variety of bloggers of both flavors and I’m very interested in hearing other’s opinions on the issue. Obviously, I’m for full disclosure and am pro-choice on the issue, however, I must concede that I’m probably biased towards other full disclosure types. Your thoughts?

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About Joe McNally

  • http://www.allahpundit.com Allah

    Personal safety is a good thing.

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    As a fan of your work, I’d probably make an exception for you.

  • Eric Olsen

    I am pro-choice as well. There are numerous legit reasons for anonymity including personal safety; job-related issues; family-related issues; the imaginative value to the writer of writing from the perspective of a “character,” a persona; or any combination of the above.

    How do these apply to the pursuit of “journalism”? A lot of blogging isn’t “journalism” anyway.

  • http://www.tekwh0re.net Ms. Tek

    I know that my blog isn’t journalims… its just the random ravings of a madwoman!

    Still, it can be a lot of fun, sometimes.

  • Chris Wilson

    I would agree with Ms. Tek’s assumption that her “random ravings” are mad.

    Journalism is acquiring and editing facts about a news story so the reader can know what happened. Most of the blogs I’ve seen have been opinions or editorials, which certainly has its place in journalism, but it should never be taken as anything but the expression of an opinion……If you guys are journalists, then I’m Ed Murrow.

  • http://www.tekwh0re.net Ms. Tek

    =p

    *kiss, kiss and all that jazz*

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    You didn’t want to suffer through the Salon ad did you, Eric? (insert smiley here)

    As far as jounalism goes, I think there’s overlap and convergance in a lot of ways that are still evolving. Take a look at Kurtz’s new deal in the Washington Post, it looks a lot like a blog. And how many blogs are dedicated to examining the perceived left or right wing cant of the media?

    Obviously, my blog isn’t journalism, it’s an avenue for me to virtually tell my best friend in New York to pull my finger.

  • http://www.tekwh0re.net Ms. Tek

    There is one scary thing that I have noticed however…

    I am find more and more online news sites having editorial that seem more like “blogs”. They are very… how shall I put this… “laid back” in writing style. I don’t know… that is a bit worrisome to me because it further blurs the line between real, factual reporting and opinion pieces. Not sure that is a good idea considering how lazy people have become with reading and understanding the news and the “spin”.

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    Yeah, I’ve read comments to the effect “I don’t go to CNN.com or NY Times.com anymore, I get all my news from blogs.” That is also a little troubling.

  • Chris Wilson

    When I wake up each morning I go straight to a newspaper site for the news. I can’t imagine going anywhere else for a factual story. I would assume most people turn to such sites when wanting to get the real story – or a story they trust. However, when the shit hits the fan at the Grammys/Super Bowl, I’m in here in a NY second.

  • Shark

    ERIC sez: “There are numerous legit reasons for anonymity including personal safety; job-related issues; family-related issues; the imaginative value to the writer of writing from the perspective of a “character,” a persona; or any combination of the above.”

    Thanks Eric, you nailed them all in one short paragraph. Needless to say, I completely agree.

    I used to do what I do here (satire, hopefully) in a column in a well known, well respected alterntive weekly newspaper. (print)

    I got three death threats in one year. They were scary enough for us to turn them over to the FBI. I used to leave my house wondering if I would be whacked by some whacko with no sense of humor.

    Other writers of political satire (friends of mine) have been physically threatened and had their careeers messed with by angry nut-bars.

    Besides, who’s left doing Journalism in this country?

  • http://www.casperbass.com/ Casper

    Just speaking for myself on this one…. I both play and write under a pseudonym (my parents have a good sense of humor but not enough to actually name me Casper). I have a very simple reason for doing so.

    My actual name is rather distinctive (I’m the only person with my last name for about thirty or forty miles, and I live in the DC metro area). I used to play music under my actual name in a somewhat popular band. The band picked up some groupies, and a number of them settled on individual members in the band. For some reason, a few of them chose me. And one or two of them tracked me down to my house, started calling me at home, showing up at my doorstep with “gifts” — behaviour that some might call stalking.

    I have no desire to repeat the process. If that means that some people are going to choose to not read/listen/pay attention to/pledge lifelong service to me, then so be it.

  • http://www.tekwh0re.net Ms. Tek

    Oh, I get death threats and rape threats all the time. It’s also not very hard at all to know who I am if you want to. I don’t hide it that much really. I just try not to make it so obvious.

  • Chris Wilson

    There are quite a few people still doing journalism in this country “Shark.”

    I’m sorry you don’t know any better….

  • Shark

    oy.

    It was a joke, “~Chris~”.

    Based on a bit of hyperbole.

    Good gawd, I hate explaining this shit.

    Anyway….

    I don’t know that I agree that there are “quite a few” out there (print harbors perhaps the last bastion of journalistic integrity, but it’s in the minority—relatively speaking).

    I think the majority are content to regurgitate press-releases, at least in my experience.

    PS: Chill.

  • Eric Olsen

    Joe, I read the Salon story – I don’t have to sit through ads, I belong.

    The primary concern is the one-sidedness of attacks when the atteckee is identified but the attacker is not. I have sympathy for this perspective, but I also can very easily understand why any number of bloggers would want to remain anonymous. Does it affect their credibility? Perhaps at first, but I wait awhile to see if I trust ANY writer, so this doesn’t change much about my approach.

    Obviously, in my case I totally agree with Beato that the whole point of blogging is self-promotion, but that’s because I have approached it as a career move, or even to a certain extent, a career.

    In the case of those who write anonymously who wouldn’t otherwise be able to write – I’d rather they be able to speak.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    I’ve gotten a couple feelers about doing one of those sponsored by some recognizable medium blogs. I won’t consider it until my blogs have their anniversary at least. However, I do try to adhere to journalistic rules in most of what I blog. It is habitual, having had them drummed into my head when I was a journalist.

    I don’t know that anonymity matters much in regard to how readers respond to a blogger. I got a lot more hate mail when I was a (named) young editorial writer for a large newspaper than I have as a blogger. My guess is that once people read a blogger for a while, and check out her sources, they know whether the person is reliable or not.

    From this published writer’s perspective, there is little to be gained from blogging under one’s name. The blogosphere is still tiny. Even a book that sells poorly will be read by more people than read anything other than the most well-known blogs. So, there is nothing to gain by dropping anonymity. And, of course, there is a flip side. The ‘I’m here to put down people who are much better at this than I am’ types, Joe McNally, for example, would love to go to Amazon and trash bloggers/writers in the comments there. I believe it is smart to frustrate them.

    Another point in favor of anonymity is that many writers are multifaceted. Yet, many readers have a hard time distinguishing between fact and opinion, fiction and non-fiction, reportage and personal experience, etc. Establishing boundaries prevents some of the confusion that would occur otherwise. For example, a blogger can’t be attacked for the opinions a character in his novel holds by someone who can’t grasp characterization if he or she doesn’t provide the opportunity.

    I guess what I’m saying is that anonymity is a good barrier between stupidity and malice and free expression.

    These are quick and dirty thoughts. I may blog this topic later.

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    I understand and agree with the concept of pen names in fiction.

    I also understand the need to have multiple characters for specific pieces, say if you are writing as a character for a particular website with a specific voice. That’s a dramatic reality.

    I do some writing like this for one of our websites that has a fiesty mascot. The mascot is purely satirical and says and does things that are much more intense than I ever would say — or frankly believe — but that’s all part of the schtick.

    I do think that pen names are a reality in creative writing. I mean what would have happened to Richard Bachmann without Stephen King?

    Also, I think in terms of promoting a website, it can be a good business strategy to have a name that fits with the website for search engine position and the like. A persona that can be part of that promotional package.

    For example, if I was “David” as some people mistakenly refer to me as (dropping what I think is a rather obvious “T”), but there are a zillion David’s out there (one recently in fact who I wish to have nothing in common with), but as “TDavid” I am somewhat unique from an SE perspective, anyway.

    With all that said, I don’t like the idea of people anonymously attacking others. Have some balls and stand and be counted, somewhere, as someone, and then the credibility of the voice will increase dramatically from my point of view.

    Of course it doesn’t take much research to find out who is publishing what and that’s where the anonomity vs. accountability breaks down. There is responsibility at some level, perhaps not with the anon blogger/commenter him/herself, but with the place that decides to publish to the web these words.

    Accountability still remains and I think ultimately there is no such thing as being truly anonymous on the web. A false reality of sorts. Fiction.

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    MD, please excuse me if you took offense, none was meant. I’m a little confused about your reference to me. If I were the type to trash writers in the comments on Amazon, I could certainly already do that already. I don’t, and I challenge you to provide any evidence of behavior like that if you’re going to make such an accusation. I assure you, if I really used the approach that ‘I’m here to put down people who are much better at this than I am’ you certainly would not be a target. So your point is?

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    You just made my point for me, Lil’ Joe. Real writers have a vested interest in not having silly snipers like you following them around. That is a good reason to do ancillary writing under a pseudonym.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    TDavid, we learned that when Atrios was sued. But, I still think he has gained more as a anonymous blogger than he can lose. If he had used his real name, a certain mystique would have not been there that helped ‘make him’ as a blogger.

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    That’s cool, I appreciate having a real writer dedicate an article to me, link me from their blog, and go to the trouble of commenting on my posts. Most real writers just let their work speak for them.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    I’m charitable.

  • http://www.blogbloke.com BB

    Geesh I get so tired of this stupid one-upmanship witless banter.

    But seriously my real name is Bloke. Well, ok ya got me there but I have to agree with Eric and the Shark. Having worked in law I too have had my share of death threats, assaults, etc. After you’ve had a thick Italian voice threaten to put an “Uzi uppa ya nose” you think twice about using your given name. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to create a mystique about your character. And speaking of character I am who I appear to be so there is no deception. I’m no different in real life than what I appear on the net. So long as your are true to yourself that is what is important. No matter what your handle is in time people will (hopefully) accept you or your persona.

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    Awwww…Dangit BB, we were just getting to the part where we kiss!

  • http://www.blogbloke.com BB

    Sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude. How ’bout I move my post down a few?

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    I believe Atrios has made some folks mad enough to assault him. And, Philly is a tough town where guys who will ‘kicka some ass’ are not rare. Another good reason for him to have made that choice.

  • http://www.blogbloke.com BB

    Rocky, Rocky, Rocky..