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mygif

Speaking as a sub-editor (which is technically a journalist), I am often very bitter towards letters-to-the-editor writers. This is because nine-tenths of them lack basic grammar skills, and a good few have no grasp on logic, either.

Not that this is in any way apposite. But I just thought I’d get it out there.

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Garfield said on June 8th, 2009 at 7:56 pm

At the paper where I work, we never print anonymous or pseudonymous letters to the editor. Such writers might easily have self-serving or otherwise hidden agendas, so we make negative assumptions about anyone who wish to take part in public debate without risking their reputation.
Mind you, here I am, writing under a pseudonym, in part because I don’t want my opinions about Ambush Bug to reflect on my employer.
Something else occurs to me: wouldn’t the exchanges between Blevins and Whelan have been different — a bit more respectful, and maybe more substantial, if less entertaining — if Blevins hadn’t been writing under a pseudonym? To put it another way, does everyone with an internet pen name risk turning into a troll?

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mygif

I’m not sure it makes sense to prejudge motives. It’s nigh impossible to suss out what motives a letter-writer might have, let alone whether those motives are craven or legitimate. What matters is whether the points they are making are cogent. If editors really tried to screen out bland talking points and instead focus on actual incisive commentary, I honestly am not sure I’d care if the writer had a conflict of interest or not.

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mygif

It’s a neat analogy, but journalists might feel more bitter towards “letters to the editor” if the editor printed every single one of them.

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Fred Davis said on June 9th, 2009 at 8:12 am

It’s a neat analogy, but journalists might feel more bitter towards “letters to the editor” if the editor printed every single one of them.

Yeah but wouldn’t that be more of a “jesus, my editor is a slut, does he print my stuff because he actually likes it or I am just taking up space in between the adverts like all the others?”

Is it wrong or something to just say “there are circumstances when being pseudonymous is a neccesary thing” and “outing a pseudonymous blogger is not a valid or meanginful form of arguement”?

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mygif

“outing a pseudonymous blogger is not a valid or meanginful form of arguement”?

This.

If your argument can be defended on its merits, you have a decent argument.

If your only defense to criticism is “my critic’s credentials aren’t as good as mine” then by all rights you should have lost your argument.

Whelan was upset because he’s a big-named all-star lawyer and publius was a no-name guy working at a private law school. Whelan felt that his credentials should make him immune to criticism from “little people”. Pseudonymity is a way of leveling the playing field because no one can know if the person behind the psued is more highly credentialed than the person they are leveling criticism towards. This is why people with power hate pseudonymous writing – because it makes it much harder to make the dismissive ad hominem attack of “my degree is from Yale and my opponent got his degree at Oklahoma State University – why would you trust his criticism”.

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Sean D. Martin said on June 9th, 2009 at 12:19 pm

What matters is whether the points they are making are cogent. If editors really tried to screen out bland talking points and instead focus on actual incisive commentary, I honestly am not sure I’d care if the writer had a conflict of interest or not.

Exactly. I don’t imagine the way to go is to read thru a letter submitted to the editor, nodding at the cogent points being made, recognizing that a carefully constructed, reasoned argument is being made and THEN, upon noticing the signature at the bottom is a pseudonym, dismissing it as unpublishable.

I use my real name, not that I’m anyone of note, for everything I post because personally I think you should stand by your words. I don’t care for those who use the advantage of anonymity to be abusive and unaccountable. (But given that those folks do exist, I can at the same time fully understand why reasonable, responsible commenters prefer not to make targets of themselves.)

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That Guy said on June 9th, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Another anonymous opinion here, just because I prefer it so. But the fact that apparently businesses, employers, etc seem to think that privately held opinions expressed in a non-work environment are under their authority is something that recommends pseudonymity. A person’s private life is just that – their private life. Nobody’s business but their own.

If I am not at work, I should have the right to express myself in any way whatsoever about my workplace, what product or service they offer, or their policies. So long as I am professional and courteous at work, it should not matter.

But this isn’t so, somewhere along the line, people developed the belief that someone’s private venting or opinions are the business of an employer when the employee is at home. I am an employee, not a serf. I can say what I wish when I wish about whatever I wish too.

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ps238principal said on June 9th, 2009 at 1:47 pm

I just wish more “letters to the editor” forums (from newspapers to talking heads who read what they think is “viewer mail”) would have someone Google search key phrases; it disturbs me how often Astroturf letters wind up in print as if they were composed by someone who genuinely believed what was written instead of being copy-pasted from a website with an axe to grind.

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Lister Sage said on June 9th, 2009 at 2:15 pm

That Guy: I remember shortly before I finished college someone saying, either out loud or in the school paper, I can’t remember which, telling students to be careful about what you put in your Facebook profile because employers will be looking at that. Which I thought was bullshit given that there are lots of people who go drinking or have pictures taken of themselves doing something stupid and I don’t see why something like that should effect your employability.

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That Guy said on June 9th, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Exactly. If I misbehave or kvetch on company time, darn right it’s their business. If I’m at home or out with friends and not on the company clock? It’s no business of my employer to audit my behavior.

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