The Rapidian

Pseudonymous

But given my aforementioned high regard for REVUE Magazine, and your publisher, I'd assume this is not official editorial content; rather, it's simply your op-ed piece. Which creates a new dilemma: wh
Underwriting support from:

I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman.

-Walter Williams

/Terry Johnston

Dear Anonymous REVUE Magazine Writer:

I've long enjoyed the magazine you write for (REVUE). Same goes for your publisher, whom I know just well enough to like quite a bit.

But let's talk about you and your fake name, and your critical op-ed pieces. You write about real things and actual people; but your identity is a fabrication. Your writing is snarky. It's cleverness rubbed raw. It's a crayon drawing of a shaman standing among sheep. It's a series of high-pitched grunts from an adolescent boy shadowboxing in the bathroom. You render your valid arguments meaningless by fabricating your name, which eliminates your credibility and categorically prevents your writing from rising to the level of criticism.

Criticism is a practice that has standards and rules. I'm criticizing you right now. I have a name. And I have credibility because I am an actual person.

As I hope you'd agree, journalistic integrity relies on sourcing, from photo captions to quotes to bylines. Op-ed pieces without attribution take on the appearance of official editorial content. In this sense, your pseudonym creates a dilemma: based on your piece in the August issue, the magazine's official editorial policy begins and ends with snarky comments about a local artist.

I already know this is not REVUE's editorial policy. But this dilemma is unavoidable when publishing anonymous op-ed content: it's got to be a person's voice, or else it's the publication. These are the rules. We know what happens when you break these rules. You get the Mlive.com comments section. You inherit fake names, vitriol, confrontation and the absence of civility. These people have no credibility. Most human beings don't speak that way face-to-face.

And I just don't get it. In your most recent op-ed piece, you took a courageous stand against… err… a middle-aged guy from the NE side who promotes arts/culture in West Michigan. Because apparently you've addressed and solved every other form of oppression in Metro GR, bringing us to the next-most-oppressing-threat: Tommy Allen. Gardener, local writer, businessperson, activist and overall well-known personality.

The title of this August piece is Attention: I am NOT Tommy Allen. As for the title, I could hardly agree more. I know Tommy Allen. Tommy Allen is a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Tommy Allen.

Let's consider the target of your op-ed. Decades of progressive community building. Overcoming adversity in the public eye. Advocacy for just causes during risky times. Helping former Grand Rapids Mayor John Logie pass anti-discrimination protections in the early 1990s. Working with a local movement to get Holland to pass the same protections 15 years later. Writing a weekly column that highlights local NPOs, charities, small businesses, artists, customers, citizens, venues and patrons of the arts. Spreading joy through manifest optimism. Embracing what's best - but often quietest - about us. Working with city leaders to promote and innovate the area. Consistently writing a heartfelt, enthusiastic weekly column in Rapid Growth Media. Too much more to enumerate.

So why does it matter that you're no Tommy Allen? The answer is simple: If you could relate to him as a peer, you'd be averse to hurling stones while standing in the shadows. If you were not in the shadows, you'd be averse to hurling stones. People are like that when you see each other's face.

Also worth mentioning: Tommy Allen is perhaps the most prominent out/gay voice in the region. He came out during a difficult era. Meanwhile you keep your true identity in the closet, taking cheap shots with no expectation of repercussions. Kind of unfair. But ethical issues aside, you'd be more effective at throwing turds if you stood outside the closet. You'd be a better pitcher. And you could see your catcher more clearly. It's just more efficient.

And I'm not saying Tommy is beyond reproach. I have issues with him sometimes. Any friend would. All of us are fair game. Criticism is a good thing either way.

But again: your piece did not rise to the level of criticism, because you went after someone anonymously, knowing the ridicule would be published for thousands to see. You broke the rules, from Journalism 101 to the 6th Amendment, the accused has the right* to face the accuser. (*Except in some cases when the accuser is a child.)

I'll acknowledge openly that it became personal, for me, when you went after Tommy. He is a close friend and I'd stand side-by-side with him in the street, knives out. You write for a really great publication and you have amazing reach. I know your publisher has high regard for ethics. It's unfair for you to use your platform to make fun of someone anonymously. It's not right.

To me your August op-ed reads like this: (1) make fun of Tommy; (2) agree with Tommy's conclusion. And none of the ridicule was essential to your conclusion. Which was to agree with Tommy.

Bottom line: If you dehydrated your op-ed to remove the parts where you make fun of Tommy, it would have been short enough to post on Twitter. I just didn't see the point.

My personal objections aside, I think you have a responsibility to the basic rules of the game. These traditions serve a purpose, and the purpose is good. Anonymous commenting is the last refuge of scoundrels. It really is.

Thanks,
Erin Wilson
Grand Rapids, MI

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.

Comments

I was disgusted when I saw that article in REVUE... I still don't understand how something like that was allowed to be published. Brilliantly worded Mr. Wilson!

I wonder how many web hits (revenue) this is generating for them. There is no bad press when you can turn a profit from it.

You're all too right, Mark - this factored heavily into my consideration about whether to publish. But writing it was more of a reflex, partly because the anonymous op-ed in REVUE targeted a dear friend, partly because anonymous commenting needs to be called out, recognized readily, and put to a stop. That practice is a blight on the community, it atrophies our ability (and willingness) to authentically communicate with one another.

with the lights on. It's one that needs to keep going. http://therapidian.org/anonymity-media-conversation-continues

 

that is a cheap shot article... not as cheap as calling them MLIVE (that's just harsh, man!), but still... i'll never read them again, personally... it might have had some redeeming value if he had A) less snark and B) some actual counter-points to why Tommy was underestimating GR's need for validation

For those worried that this gives the Revue more click-through/impressions, it's not where they make a ton of revenue.  Most of it is through advertising in their paper version.  Right now, even with all the hubbub, the diPonzi hit piece has 538 views, which is about what we get for a hum-drum article in Rapid Growth.  Controversial and hot topic articles get 1000 - 3000 views.  538 impressions probably equals about $5 - $10, if they're even using a pay-per-impression model (would be my wild ass guess).  Don't let the threat of someone profiting hold you back from taking a stand.

I don't get why the Revue had to publish this article - anonymous or otherwise.  It is childish and "Stad" seems to be a bit envious perhaps???!!!  Why go after Tommy?  Don't get it at all.

I appreciate the effort you put into this editorial. This further illustrates why anonymous writing or commenting does not make for a civil society.

I think mlive would do well to require people to identify themselves in the same way a person writing a letter to the editor of the GR Press must.

Not a fan of anonymous posting whether it is in commentary in news sites (Mlive) or by blind guest editorialists. Now back to my editing of my "Leave Tommy Alone" YouTube video.

 

Bylines actually appeared at the turn of the last century as a means to give credibility to newspapers that had lost the public trust due to war-mongering and "yellow" journalism.  An op-ed piece without attribution IS the opinion of the publication.  Call it Journalism 101 or common sense: editors and publishers make the call on opinion content.   

If you're directing your comments at "Stad whatever" and giving Revue a pass, then you're proving the effectiveness of the model. 

I'm also a little perplexed by the response to this.  Revue has recently made fun of Sarah Palin, Rob Bliss and ArtPrize in that column.  I would really appreciate it if someone was offended enough by my work to take me down.  And it would move me to tears to have supporters rally in defense of my work.  Whether the accuser was anoymous wouldn't make a difference to me.  I would kind of prefer it, actually.

 

 

Browse