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The Trouble with Trifles

With apologies to David Gerrold, Josph Pevney, Captain James Tiberius Kirk and his crew:

It looks as though another author has learned about the “hidden costs” of “Free” Speech. Even though the story is a little (JUST a little) dated, it is worth telling here.

What is one man’s “trifle” (definition 1) can be one corporation‘s “sore point.”

According to the February 9, 2009 edition of Macworld magazine (and an earlier Macworld online post), Dan Lyons. the man behind “Fake Steve Jobs,” quit posting to his Real Dan Lyons blog. The reasons? Dan made some critical comments about Yahoo’s PR department and others about the uncertainty of a Yahoo deal with Google. According to Macworld, Yahoo contacted Dan’s employers at Newsweek, and Dan pulled the blog entry and quit posting. Macworld quotes Dan Lyons as writing, in his comments to the Associated Press:

“The bottom line is I don’t want to jeopardize a job I like (and which feeds my hungry 3-year-old twins) over some blog that’s just a funny little thing I’m doing in my spare time,” Lyons wrote. “Or, to translate this into Fake Steve speak: I’m a coward and a whore who has totally sold out to The Man.”

Interestingly, Dan has begun posting to his blog again, under the title “Posting again” on January 7, 2009 (and another post on January 8, but none since), with a large conspicuous gap between November 17, 2008 and January 7, 2009. But today is January 19…. Hopefully, Dan has not trifled with the “wrong people” again. :-)

(Note added January 30, 2009: Dan has posted two entries dated January 27, 2009. It is really good to hear from you, Dan.)

These events remind me just a bit of some comments once made by one of my former coworkers in high tech, who referred to one of my former employers as “humorless <corporation-name-deleted> drones.” That company actually ENCOURAGED its employees to blog, but nobody I knew would take the career risk. The episode also recalls comments made by Tommy Lee Jones about the FBI’s (alleged :-) ) lack of a “sense of humor,” when introducing himself and Will Smith to a woman on a farm in the movie, “Men in Black.”

The relationship between traditional news media and bloggers is a tricky (and evolving) one. I know some people who get ALL of their news through blogs (because they “don’t trust traditional media” :-) ), which I think is potentially dangerous. The example above with Dan Lyons shows the equal-and-opposite danger of getting all of your news through traditional media. (After all, Dan’s blog was “in his spare time,” that is, in his “real life.”) Organizations like CNN and CNET have been progressive in the incorporation of blog comments and blog formats into their online offerings. The news organizations of some other corporations have not been so progressive.

Truth is such a malleable thing. Without input from traditional news media, the blogosphere can become a dangerous global rumor mill – some might argue that it already has. For traditional media to remain at all relevant (some argue that it is already irrelevant) and profitable, it will have to be able to find peace with the blogosphere and to tolerate the criticisms that it will receive in a representative democracy. The same could be said for other corporations.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. Apparel and other gifts decorated with some of our most popular photos can be ordered from the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Store on CafePress®. Both Shutterfly™ and CafePress® ship to most international locations worldwide! If you don’t see what you want or would like to receive an email when new photos are up on the site, send us an email at info@cheshirecatphoto.com.

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