In the internet age, whistleblowing, well, blows.
TSF buddy and former TENNIS magazine intern Nick McCarvel was the talk of the New York magazine scene on Monday after this question appeared in The Ethicist (a column published in the New York Times Magazine):
A journalism major at college, I was delighted to land an internship at a national magazine. My editor asked me to post comments on one of the magazine’s online blogs, being sure not to mention my working for the magazine but to write in a style that suggests I’m a reader. That felt dirty to me. Advice? — Nick McCarvel, Seattle
Of course Randy Cohen, the column’s author, didn’t agree with the practice. And of course people wanted to know which pub was behind this skeevy policy. Some quick Googling by FishbowlNY led to TENNIS‘ doorstep. So much for blind items.
(BTW, Nick’s internship ended the day after the column appeared, so he’s in the clear as far as dealing with awkward fallout at the magazine. The editor in question has since left. I hope he wasn’t the one I was pitching to!)
Seriously, though: this is all very unfortunate, especially because the magazine’s blog, which features well-written (and bylined) posts by McCarvel, have received their fair share of readers’ comments. If the intent was to steer comment threads in a different direction, I’m sure Nick could have posted as an intern with the same effect. There was no benefit in creating these anonymous personas.
I’d like to give Nick a pat on the back for letting people know that this was happening. TSF will still be reading Steve Tignor and Peter Bodo, but perhaps we won’t pay attention to readers’ comments so much…