Ask DrugMonkey: Will you comment for attribution?

Mar 02 2010 Published by under Ask DrugMonkey, Blogging, Science Communication

Every now and again I get a request to provide information to an individual who writes for a mainstream media print outlet. Sometimes ones that are focused on the scientific enterprise, sometimes ones that have a regional focus and sometimes the larger, more general national news organizations. The latest one was from Sharon Begley of Newsweek .
The typical request includes some stroking "I'm a big fan of your blog" (yeah, you and the spam commenters, bucko) and a request for a voice interview on some topic of interest that is obviously related to my blogging.
So far, so good.
Even if I do not really understand the fetish with the voice interview over the email exchange. (Oh, ok, yes I do*.)
Then, with various degrees of clumsiness, they work around to the question of my real identity and how they would like to cite that real identity in their article.
Of course, I refuse.


Now, here is what fascinates me. Actually, first I need a little disclaimer. It is possible that I have lingering irritation with the current journalist because of an article she wrote about the NIH funding system. It is the usual wah-wah about how the NIH refused to fund the lone genius who turned out later to be RightAllAlong, therefore the SystemIsBroken. Aiiiieeeee. I was going to blog it but I see I never did. Ah well.
Anyway, back to the task at hand. See if you can follow the MSM journalist's logic.
They allegedly read the blogging of DrugMonkey, find it informative and interesting to the point where they wish his input on a story they are writing. Input that they would like to use as whatever they think of* as a direct attributed quote.
In the absence of direct quoting or attributing they are happy to use the input of DrugMonkey in creating the eventual story. On background.
The alleged reason for not naming a pseudonymous source in the article, is that they "owe it to the readers" to tell them whose opinion is coloring the story.
I find this fascinating. First, because there is by now a rather large body of opinion written by DrugMonkey on various topics. These may be easily located from just about anywhere one can find an uncensored Internet connection. These writings are far more informative about "who" I am than my real world name could possibly be. My real world self does not have any specific role opinionating for MSM type audiences. At best, I would hope that some narrow subset of my research articles reach an audience beyond the narrow scientific field at which they are directed. Those are rather dry scientific communications, however, and convey very little about "who" I am when it comes to opinionating on topics of interest to the consumers of MSM. So why would citing my real self be somehow better than my pseudonym? It actually conveys less information to the reader. In a sense.
The second implication is a bit nastier for the journalists. The claim is that the journalist "owes" transparency of sources to the reader. I can tentatively sympathize with this goal. However, the journalist is full willing to interview a source who does not want to be identified in print and to incorporate that information either overtly or unconsciously into the resulting article. In such a case, the source of the slant or opinion expressed as the journalist's own take on the issue is entirely opaque! The journalist does not reveal how many sources she or he consulted, which primary literature or random websites were reviewed or anything like that in the article. That is all 'background'. And yet this background, and the resulting slant, can have a much greater effect on the reader than do direct quotes*.
In the substance abuse fields, probably the largest category of potential conflict of interest with respect to opining in news media is the category of therapy for drug addiction. Whether we are talking proprietary rehabilitation schemas, computer assisted partial replacements for old fashioned talk therapy or drugs to be approved by the national regulatory bodies, this is where we start to touch on traditional areas of conflict of interest in which it is very obviously in the interest of the reader to know "who" is talking. Is the person's loyalty more to the accurate depiction of the scientific support? Or is the source looking to enhance the stock value of a company for whom the source consults?
In my case, I like to use the general disclaimer of "assume that I am conflicted to the hilt" because I do not fear any decrement in the impact of what I have to say. I have no need to establish my bona fides in that way. I deduce that MSM journalists would not prefer to use this standard and in fact like to pretend they are giving balance by including competing biases in the story quotes. Or, at the least, interviewing people with opposed opinions. And overall to compartmentalize and minimize any implication that the source even has a bias.
The fact is, however, this balance is not readily apparent to the readers. The reader has to trust that the journalist is not expressing a biased viewpoint that has been heavily influenced by one of his or her "not for attribution" sources. The reader has to trust that the journalist has vetted the source for conflict. Because the resulting article provides no clues whatsoever as to the identity, viewpoint or potential biases of the source.
When considered in this light, citing an pseudonymous blogger with an extensive track record seems to serve the journalist's readers a heck of a lot better than off-the-record background interviewing.
__
*The practice of journalism is, from what I can discern, interested solely in cherry picking and quote mining to support the pre-existing story instead of conveying an accurate representation of a source's position. Once you understand this, many of their bizarre practices become more intelligible.[Related: Coturnix on The Ethics of the Quote]

53 responses so far

  • whimple says:

    The request to identify you is totally legitimate when you are being cited as an authoritative source, otherwise you are allowed to have multiple identities and that opens the door for all kinds of shenanigans. Suppose for example DM-1 writes an interesting blog while DM-2 owns a pot-farm in California. Suppose the commonly used name for DM-2 is "Amy Bishop"? This gets to the question you posed earlier on "how much do you trust DrugMonkey" (http://scienceblogs.com/drugmonkey/2010/01/trust.php).

  • Pascale says:

    Gee, the opinions expressed here are interesting, but not completely unique. I am sure with minimal effort MSM could find another expert to provide the appropriate quotation.
    This sounds sort of like the incident when Isis started LTOD last year. The reporter wouldn't touch the story of us women giving advice to "our daughters in science" unless Isis outed herself. As Isis was just collecting the letters, which were written with real names, her identity was not relevant to the story and could have been left out. However, the real identity of Isis was clearly what the reporter wanted ("for the controversy").

  • DrugMonkey says:

    The thing is, whimple, it is DrugMonkey that draws the interest in the journalist. Not real me. Not DM-2.
    Another consideration since you bring up the pot farm. The authoritative impression of some well established drug-abuse researcher may be misleading. All the cannabis fans, for example, conclude that all NIDA funded researchers are all essentially in political lockstep with a vast right wing prohibitionist conspiracy. I contest that- suppose that I am right and one such individual is, in his sekrit policy heart, a leegalize-eet mon of the most fervent sort. There could very well be a disconnect between reader-impression generated by the overt credentials and the researchers actual biases if that person was cited in the MSM.

  • genegeek says:

    I agree that DrugMonkey gives the reader more information through reading previous opinions, etc. rather than your real identity. The real identity gives all sorts of constraints on opinions. And it is funny that by reading your blog, the journalist finds you a credible source and yet that is not enough for the readers. If DrugMonkey is good enough for background, interest and other aspects of the story, why not be honest and say that you got a bunch of the material from a pseudonym blog?

  • neurolover says:

    Yeah, but the problem is that no matter how insightful anyone thinks this blog is, they wouldn't be interested in referring to it if it were, in fact, written by Amy Bishop.
    You seem to rely on the idea that errors in your hypothesis can always be discovered by testing. But, the problem with that is that the time scale is too long, and no one is really testing the hypotheses. For example, let's say an anonymous blogger tells me some testable piece of information about, say, the value of g or G. Say Stephen Chu also gave me a value. You're suggesting that I should weight those two responses equally and do my own research? or perhaps make the measurements myself? I see it as obviously true that the background of the person matters for evaluating the value of the information they offer.
    I read here, and devalue the information appropriately because of the posters' anonymity (except my own, 'cause I know who I am, but that's not ). I weight the comments of those like Pascale, who are posting under their real names more highly. I would be pretty troubled if published reports started citing anonymous blogs.
    And, when the journalists talk to you on background, do they talk to you as DM? or as yourself? I know in some instances the sticking point has been whether the blogger is willing to be publicly known in the article, not whether they're willing to be known by the journalist.

  • Orac says:

    Now, here is what fascinates me. Actually, first I need a little disclaimer. It is possible that I have lingering irritation with the current journalist because of an article she wrote about the NIH funding system. It is the usual wah-wah about how the NIH refused to fund the lone genius who turned out later to be RightAllAlong, therefore the SystemIsBroken. Aiiiieeeee. I was going to blog it but I see I never did. Ah well.

    Fortunately, I did:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/06/academia_slowing_down_the_search_for_cur.php
    šŸ™‚

  • Dirk says:

    Of course a mainstream journalist would rather deal with an expert by name rather than by net moniker, however well known the fake name may be. Surely this is an understandable preference. As a "mainstream" journalist, I've used plenty of anonymous sources in articles I've written, but in almost every case I would have preferred to validate what I was saying with a named attribution, rather than asking readers to trust ME on the matter.

  • namnezia says:

    Some thoughts:
    1. Journalists use anonymous sources for quotes all the time, why is this more acceptable than a pseudonymous source?
    2. What if the journalist figured out DMs identity (which is not so hard to do) and then used DM's real name for the quote attribution? Would this violate journalistic ethics since anybody who reads DMs blog could also figure out this information?
    3. On the other hand, l can see the journalists point, although DMs posts, and not DMs credentials, are the source of his credibility in issues of, say, grant funding, it does sound a bit silly to say in an article: "DrugMonkey, a popular blogger who writes about funding in science, says XYZ...". I see your point, but still...

  • You nailed it, DM.
    Sadly though, you should remember that most journalists today also subscribe to the view that a name (preferably something like, say, a DrugManning) with no track record in print MUST be more credible than, say, a pseudonymous DrugMonkey with an extensive track record in print.

  • Anonymous says:

    I thought DrugMonkey was your real name.

  • Just thinking out loud here: would it be more palatable to writers to quote you if your pseudonym was something like a real name - "Clinton Falconer" was the first male choice (assuming you are male) I got when I used this random name generator - instead of DrugMonkey? I pose this because when I look at a properly formatted citation of one of my blogposts, "Pharmboy, A." seems to lack gravitas regardless of how authoritative my blog post is.
    To be honest, I never thought of selecting a "normal" pen name like Mark Twain. But I wonder if a mainstream writer would have less of an issue with citing that kind of 'nym.

  • Eli Rabett says:

    Speaking of Amy Bishop Turner, well, anyhow, it looks like this Amy Turner had a strange article about how "Ectasy is the key to treating PTSD"
    Any opinion, or are you really Amy Turner

  • Anonymous says:

    "Bill Richardson, a biomedical researcher at University of North Carolina Medical School who writes the popular 'DrugMonkey' blog..."
    sounds better than
    "DrugMonkey sez..."
    Do you really blame her for trying to sound like a professional? And what's your big hangup anyway? If your goal with this blog is to educate and inform a wide audience, but pseudonymity is hampering that because you have to avoid interviews like this, then how is pseudonymity helping? Do you seriously think the paparazzi are going to start camping outside your house? Do you think writing this blog is bad for your career? Do you think that people knowing your real identity would undercut your authority here?
    At some point, DM, your identity is going to be known to your readers. And at some point, DM, no one is going to care. So you might as well ride that horse while it can still run.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh says:

    Why can't she/he/they use this: an NIH-funded biomedical research scientist who blogs under the pseudonym of DrugMonkey with a link to blog post that was the starting point for the article.

  • Namnezia says:

    Anon (#13): I don't think DM's point in keeping his pseudonym anonymous is because DM is worried it will hurt his career or undercut his (or her) authority. With some minor internet snooping and careful reading of DMs post anybody can figure out DMs real identity (unless DM is dropping hints to impersonate someone else, and thus making his identity even more super secret). My guess, and I may be wrong about this, is that remaining pseudonymous allows a scientific blogger to play by different rules and express opinions not as a representative of their department or university but as an individual free of professional (but not ethical) constraints, even if their real identity is known or can be easily derived. As soon as someone is attributed both by their real name and their pseudonym this barrier disappears.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Folks, the point here is not why anyone chooses to write under a pseud but rather the nature of authoritah. Why is the MSM (or anyone) focused so much on identity credentials and less on whether what someone has said makes any sense?

  • Eskimo says:

    If you find dealing with mainstream media reporters so treacherous and annoying, don't talk to them. They can try to find someone else to provide a quote with a real name attached, and you can get back to your research.
    Compare the situation to someone who calls asking you to donate money to a charity you've never heard of before. Don't waste your and their time toying with them, just say no and move on.

  • whimple says:

    Why is the MSM (or anyone) focused so much on identity credentials and less on whether what someone has said makes any sense?
    You're kidding, right? You submit your grant proposal anonymously because they should be able to be evaluated on the basis of their boffo scientific content alone?

  • Dirk says:

    From "Anonymous Sources," an article in American Journalism Review:
    New York Times attorney Freeman says unnamed sources represent one of the most serious libel threats for news organizations. When a paper is sued over a story based on confidential sources, he says, "the plaintiff's lawyer will doubtless complain that either the sources didn't exist or they shouldn't have been relied on. Juries will generally believe that when those people never come into the room."

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Eskimo- In this analogy it is a question of whether you think organized charities are a great thing but you object a specific industry practice. Like overhead rates. If enough people complain and Congress starts muttering about tax exempt status, the practices become at the least more transparent and at best rein in the overhead. As it happens I *don't* generally speak with journalists and many colleagues I respect refuse to as well. They refuse because of the misrepresentation problems, perceived or real. I think that is a bad thing. Obviously I would prefer as many scientists as possible be communicating their specific expertise on relevant newsworthy topics. At the moment we're left with the ones narcissistic enough not to care if they are misrepresented, so long as it is their name in print.
    whimple- you know full well that I endorse the aspects of the NIH grant system that focus on the *proposal* over the *investigator*. It is not anonymous per se but the principles are similar.
    Dirk- Um, good point. šŸ™‚ Is this the sum total of your reason for your comments in #7?

  • Vicki says:

    I'd be more sympathetic to the journalist in question if the business weren't full of stories with quotes like "A source who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to the media told the Times thus-and-such." "Drugmonkey" is a lot more identifying than that, right up there with the decades-ago convention of "A senior state department official traveling on the secretary's plane" for when the secretary of state didn't want to be quoted by name.
    As I've noted elsewhere, if I were to start signing these posts "Vicki Williams" instead of just "Vicki," almost everyone would assume they knew more about me, because the same mindset that assumes "Drugmonkey" or "Aahz" is a pseudonym would take as given that "Vicki Williams" is my "real" name. (It's not, but it sounds like a real name, and there probably are some Vicki Williamses out there.)

  • Anonymous says:

    Possibility 1: DrugMonkey (the real person) is experienced and respected. He obviously has authority and credibility to comment on U.S. biomedical science and NIH policy. In this case, his non-anonymous comments would be valuable.
    Possibility 2: DrugMonkey is a marginally-qualified blowhard whose opinion would likely carry no weight whatsoever once his mystique of anonymity is gone. In this case, it's useful for Sharon and her readers to know, so she can maybe move on to a better source of information.
    Possibility 3: DrugMonkey is qualified to offer an opinion, but for some reason is worried that non-anonymity will ruin either his career or his blog.
    I think we can rule out #1, because if that were true then DM would be commenting non-anonymously already. Let's also assume that #2 is not the case, because if it is then I've wasted a lot of time reading this blog when I could have been watching funny YouTube videos instead. or at least reading something much more entertaining.
    So that leaves possibility #3. With regard to that, I personally don't think non-anonymity will ruin his blog. In fact, depending on DM's qualifications and situation, I might actually take him more seriously than I do. Which might do me some good. DM never says anything so shocking or secret that it needs to be protected by anonymity anyway. His blogs about the 'inside workings' of NIH can for the most part be gleaned from the NIH website itself. And nothing else is too riveting either. I could see where CPP might have to tone-down his somewhat entertaining online persona if he were not anonymous, and indeed that might fade the local color. But not DM. And we're assuming #2 is not the case, remember. So maybe we need to consider why DM thinks writing this blog will hurt his career? And that is maybe a question for the more senior scientists around here. How would you view a blog like DM's come promotion & tenure review?
    Assuming DM was solid on the stuff that matters (bringing in grants, publishing, not pissing off students or other faculty), then this blog would seem to only be a plus -- something to be filed under 'service'. So it's a good thing. At worst, maybe a fellow panelist at study section might murmur 'wonder if he'll blog about this...' within earshot. But I bet they'll all be on best behavior if they think he might. And so would DM.
    And maybe giving up anonymity could be a GREAT thing. Look at PZ Myers. If PZ was anonymous, he'd just be a secret blowhard at some rinky-dink college professionally unqualified to comment on most of the things he blogs about. But because PZ has stuck his (real-life) neck out, he is now an 'authority' on something he made his hobby, gets numerous speaking engagements, free cruises, etc. It's a plus for him, and a plus for his rinky-dink university.
    Seriously, DM. Blogging anonymously is like publishing anything else anonymously. Do you think author names should be wiped off the literature? Should NIH proposals have all applicant information scrubbed? After all, it's about the ideas and data, right?

  • Anonymous @23,
    I was tempted to "take you more seriously than I do" but then decided against it because you didn't sign your post with your real name (that also linked to a site with info and proof of who you claimed to be).
    The irony, the irony.....

  • anonymous says:

    moustache (@24): I don't think I said anything that requires authority, except for my *opinion* that DM's blog would not be considered a negative for promotion & tenure.
    Thus, my real identity would not add anything, and might actually be a distraction.
    In contrast, when DM gives professional and grant-writing advice, he does so from an implied position of authority. That is why he and CPP carefully point out their 'credentials' under 'Profile' near the upper left part of this blog page. Similarly, when DM informs us regarding MDMA etc, he implies that he is qualified and knowledgeable about the subject. We all play a little game where we assume he's qualified, but I guarantee you I am not about to cite his blog for any proposal or review I might write. And no one else around here will either. It's basically cheap edutainment.
    Sharon Begley's was not calling to ask DM about life as an anonymous blogger. She was calling to ask his opinion as a qualified biomedical scientist. Her readers aren't going to play the game we do around here. She needs her sources to be authoritative. Thus, it is reasonable that DM be asked his credentials in this regard.
    Of course, we can go on about how lazy Sharon Begley should stop surfing the internet for article ideas and sources, and actually do her job properly. But that is another topic...

  • Dirk says:

    "Dirk- Um, good point. šŸ™‚ Is this the sum total of your reason for your comments in #7?"
    -------
    It just makes things more difficult for the journalist in question. In unusual circumstances I'll use a "highly placed source," but generally, I would do what Begley did-- cross you off the list and move on to the next, hopefully more cooperative, source for the story. There is of course a blatant hypocrisy built in here--I would, and in fact I have, quoted DrugMonkey on my own blog, without further attribution. But I know I couldn't do it in a freelance piece for Newsweek or anybody else in the print world.
    I take your point, I really do, but rightly or wrongly I predict that Newsweek, in its role as an institution of public record, will never quote "DrugMonkey" on the science issues of the day.
    Another point to remember--lots of people who read the mainstream news don't read blogs at all.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    In contrast, when DM gives professional and grant-writing advice, he does so from an implied position of authority.
    Sort of. I try as hard as I can to limit and qualify my comments based on my experiences. I mean, yes, it is very difficult to talk about perspectives gleaned as an R01 applicant and reviewer without more or less claiming to be an independent investigator who has presumably been awarded at least one grant of the type being reviewed (the CSR criterion). Beyond that I make no claims whatsoever that I am somehow more successful than anyone else (as it happens I don't think I am).
    Similarly, when DM informs us regarding MDMA etc, he implies that he is qualified and knowledgeable about the subject.
    No, no, no! Again, I try very hard to give you only my interpretation of the papers or other data. It is my continued point that the literature and other information is readily available to any scientists (and interested others*) who care to read it and that you should do so to see if you think I am mischaracterizing something. I do not expect my readers to merely take my word for it (and the discussions following anything related to drug abuse seems to bear out that they do not!). I can tell you for certain sure that I have written about some topics on this blog that I am most assuredly *not* any sort of expert in. I am merely an interested audience for those topics. To be honest I would prefer you read *all* my stuff with that orientation- i.e., that I do not have any particular insight, apart from a variably sustained interest, in any topic at hand.
    *Thanks to MAPS, the advocacy site, even to nonUni affiliated

  • DrugMonkey says:

    At worst, maybe a fellow panelist at study section might murmur 'wonder if he'll blog about this...' within earshot. But I bet they'll all be on best behavior if they think he might. And so would DM.
    Sooo, you've actually hit on one of a handful of major reasons for my being pseudonymous (shh). Actually I can't recall if I've mentioned this on the blog before or not.
    I think that having my grant process/reviewing biases and opinions in easily-linkable view would compromise the CSR mission. Not hugely. but somewhat. Enough so that it becomes a major influence in my decision making.
    Yes, it is entirely stupid. Each and ever person sitting on review panels has a whole series of orientations, biases and strong opinions which strongly color their reviewing behavior. But we have a surface cover story that not only the overall process, but even the individual reviewers, are as unbiased as possible. Many reviewers actually seem to feel (and in cases assert) that they are totes unbiased! Untrue.
    But you've seen the whinging. Here or at writedit's place or in the halls of your home departments. This specific reviewer was biased against my app! Wah! I got an unfair review! I need to appeal!!!!! Etc.
    As ridiculous as I think this sort of response to a pink sheet is, it is reality. And if I were spouting my opinions easily linked to my real name it would create an extra helping of shitstorm for SROs of panels I am on and for the POs of grants that were assigned to those panels.

  • anonymous says:

    ... I try as hard as I can to limit and qualify my comments [...] Again, I try very hard to give you only my interpretation of the papers or other data.

    Ha! See how many readers you'd have if your profile read "DrugMonkey is a retired sewing machine repairman from the Canary Islands. He surfs the web incessantly, has assumed an imaginary persona, and blogs to entertain himself between drinks on the beach. He is pleased with his small following of deluded blog-followers, and thinks it's hilarious that a few young scientists might actually be following his so-called 'advice'."
    Hmmmmmm.... Actually, that might be quite a good profile. After all, 'Fake Steve Jobs' was pretty funny.

  • Funky Fresh says:

    I suspect that the commenter @#22 has a PhD from Harvard.

  • The pseudonymous blogger called Revere was an attributed source in the New York Times in an article about swine flu. I forget the exact article, but maybe someone can find it.

  • Isis the Scientist says:

    "Revere" doesn't sound nearly as goofy as "DrugMonkey" or "Comrade PhysioProf."

  • ginger says:

    What do MSM do when they quote an author who writes (exclusively) under a pen name? Probably nobody would care much about an article quoting Eric Blair's views on totalitarianism, but a reporter might well be interested in George Orwell's perspective. (Well, not now, because under either name he's been dead for 60 years. But you get the idea.)

  • anonymous says:

    To CPP in response to #30: I think, CPP, that you might be recalling this: http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2007/09/new_york_times_uses_story_negl.php
    But the situation, as I glean it, is not as you imply. If you check into it, you see that a) the blogger was NOT used really as an official source, and b) when he was, he was described by name and position: "David Michaels of the George Washington University School of Public Health, who first published Rose's letter on his blog..." http://130.80.29.3/disp/story.mpl/nation/5106826.html
    Thus, your mis-represented example actually supports the position that DM should expect to give up anonymity if he wants to be an official source for the main stream media.

  • Elfie says:

    Or you could simply stop being a drama queen, tell them your name, and be done with it.
    I realize it may be a unwanted-coming-out-party to your colleagues, but who really gives a shit? With all the thought put into this post, you'd think they were asking you to offer up your virginal daughter to be ravished by the newsroom - and hence your principled stand against tyranny.
    It's a fucking identity. Hold your hand up to your face, gaze, and accept.

  • Isabel says:

    Tsu Dho Nimh #14 is exactly right. She should just provide a link to his blog.
    The journalist just wants to get the scoop on DM's identity and DM is right she has behaved terribly.
    "Why is the MSM (or anyone) focused so much on identity credentials and less on whether what someone has said makes any sense?"
    And why are they so ready to automatically trust someone with credentials?
    "I guarantee you I am not about to cite his blog for any proposal or review I might write. And no one else around here will either. It's basically cheap edutainment."
    This is ridiculous. Why would you cite a blog anyway in your proposal? Maybe I'm missing something...DM cites his sources, and he's clearly Just a Guy, with some strong opinions and a big ego. It would be a completely different blog if DM used his real name as anonymous is recommending. And his readers would know in a second if he wasn't who he says he is. This conversation is surreal.
    "All the cannabis fans...a vast right wing prohibitionist conspiracy."
    I hope you were not referring to me, as I keep trying to point out that it is NOT a right wing issue. I mouth off about it so much because it's appalling how complacent liberals, democrats & progressives are regarding the prohibition issue. Actually they're just as bad in some ways.

  • anonymous says:

    Oh, sorry for mis-guessing your unremembered cluelessness, CPP.

  • Abeja says:

    The problem is that the journalist is basing their decision that DM is valid source of information for their article based on this blog alone and not on his/her position or publications. So it becomes irritating when an actual name is needed. If they were using sources attributed to you as a non-pseudonymed person, then they would have contacted you as that person.

  • Namnezia says:

    The journalist just wants to get the scoop on DM's identity and DM is right she has behaved terribly.

    But if she actually was able to call DM, then she already knows his identity. So it wouldn't be such a great scoop. The point is not that DMs identity is so super secret, but rather whether the journalist should respect his wishes to remain anonymous.

  • Isabel says:

    "But if she actually was able to call DM, then she already knows his identity. So it wouldn't be such a great scoop. "
    I thought she emailed him, but anyway people seem to feel she could find it easily if she wanted. I meant in her article, she wanted to reveal who he was. Otherwise if she already knew who he was why couldn't she just interview him as his real identity? Surely then he could just be interviewed as a professional. Does his blog give him more credibility? #38 sums it up well.

  • Anonymous says:

    Well, a search for "revere", "flu", and "swine" comes up blank when I try at the NYT, so I think we have to presume that CPP is just making stuff up. I suppose, it could have been a different newspaper, a different blogger, or a different topic. I'm pretty sure that NYtimes policy would not allow citing a pseudonymous blogger as a source for information.
    http://www.nytco.com/company/business_units/sources.html
    Tougher to say what their policy would be on citing a quote, perhaps published already, in a pseudonymous blog. I couldn't find it on a brief search.
    I think this is an example of where blogging and its self-publishing, wild-west atmosphere is conflicting with the rules that journalists believe are part of their professional ethics. Those rules could be modified and changed, but they're not a bad starting place.
    (I recommend Adam Canfield of the Slash, a children's book to get an intro to what journalists think about the ethics of journalism)

  • Anonymous says:

    PS: We should probably give the same authority to the possible NY times cite of a pseudonymous blogger as if CPP wrote in a paper: "I'm pretty sure I saw cited in J Physiol somewhere that the sodium channel supernova's if exposed to onions."

  • ginger says:

    Well, a search for "revere", "flu", and "swine" comes up blank when I try at the NYT, so I think we have to presume that CPP is just making stuff up ... I'm pretty sure that NYtimes policy would not allow citing a pseudonymous blogger as a source for information.
    No, there's at least one case where they have. Might be what CPP remembers. It doesn't actually name the Reveres, but it does quote the editor of flutrackers.com by her pseudonym, and it does cite commenters at Effect Measure.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/07/health/07party.html
    I used "Effect Measure" "swine flu" and set the search parameters to "articles" and "all results since 1851".

  • antipodean says:

    "all results since 1851"
    Are you just trying to piss off/bait the Reveres?

  • I'm pretty sure that NYtimes policy would not allow citing a pseudonymous blogger as a source for information.

    You have no fucking idea what you are talking about, douchemeer.

  • ginger says:

    Ha, antipodean! No. I wouldn't laugh at the Reveres' grey heads. It's just, since it's the snooty Grey Lady NYT, the search options are last 7 days, last 30 days, last 60 days, and since 1851.

  • PalMD says:

    So a newsweek article just linked a pseudonym's blog here
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/234481

  • Dirk says:

    They provided a link as ancillary background to the story, but did not use the pseudonym in the article or quote the blogger.

  • Lab Rat says:

    @Abel Pharmboy:
    "Mark Twain" is not a 'normal' made up name. It means "two fathoms deep" (used to be called out by the river-boats as a depth measure) and is therefore a lot less normal than Abel Pharmboy, although I will admit slightly more normal than DrugMonkey.

  • Adi says:

    Wow, talk about a post that struck a nerve... I had to stop reading the comments half way through even though I think many made a whole lot of sense.
    Before I started blogging, the idea of a pseudonym made little sense to me, but now, seeing some of the discussions I get pulled into with readers, I think I might just adopt one for some writing outside my main site (look for me in disguise soon).
    Still, I think that the issue is one of credibility and accountability. I believe that on the former, given the hard work that goes into developing a respected online-blog, a blogger who is appreciated for his well-informed, comprehensive, educated writing would be as credible as a real-identity source.
    It's accountability that the whole thing breaks down. The fact is that a pseudonym-holder can't truly be shamed for "saying the wrong thing" while a real personality can easily be confronted. People like having a real-name not for the inherent value it holds, but for the supposed "reliability" (I'm a stats-guy, sue me). With the politics inherent in every field, the value of a pseudonym is in allowing the unpopular to be expressed as long as it can be supported. But people don't like being confronted without being able to take personal jabs.
    And it is true that an actual scientific career takes longer to develop than a blog... But just.

  • Rick C says:

    Hello
    Does,t the value of that beat up desk turn to priceless when I can prove George Washington sat behind it?
    I have 100,s of pages of worthless doodling of the next best thing from an idle mind ,but as soon as I date them and attribute them to DaVinci, 1,ooo,s will study them and try to find the genius of it all.
    I can find a simple point for credibility though.
    In no ever will my 12 year daughter be allowed to use a source or a quote of information from some where like Wiki. or a blog ,no matter who the pen name is .
    So it is fine for me pay 3 bucks a copy and just assume the information is at least trying to be credible .
    But I have to teach that will get an F if she wavers from pure honesty? Rick

  • Eskimo says:

    Thought the folks following this thread would be interested.
    There's an article in Nature Biotech that refers to "unsubstantiated comments on Derek Lowe's In the Pipeline blog"
    http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v28/n3/full/nbt0310-185.html

  • capsiplex says:

    They provided a link as ancillary background to the story, but did not use the pseudonym in the article or quote the blogger.

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