Silverfish Staff Sells Out, Updates Policy
With the literary flair of MacBeth's three crones, something Wicked has decided to teach the Silverfish staff a valuable lesson about policy writing. Well, it's not completely Tragic in that I don't think anyone will die, probably more of a Comedy--but let me take you back to that morning in February so you may decide whether we are engaged in an information ethical dilemma or just in need of a dope-slap:
I [Silverfish public relations officer Dana Brownfield] was charged with attending an LIS 530 class in order to attempt to recruit some first year MLIS students to carry the Silverfish and iArts torches into the future. iArts practically sells itself, of course; it's so fun and practical, plus I was provided with an official statement from the president to assist me in my persuasive efforts. But when asked to espouse the virtues of the 'fish I was left a bit tongue-tied. One year before (when I was a first-year student sitting in LIS 530 listening to officer speeches) the sales pitch was something along the lines of, "Silverfish is a gigantic waste of time, with no professionally redeeming characteristics whatsoever," two qualities which I personally cannot resist. Also, after listening to my peers go on and on about how rewarding the other student organizations are, I knew poor Silverfish just could not compete. I started strong, pointing out Silverfish's role in preserving the history of the Information School from the student perspective, but then I pretty much freaked out and started rambling:
"Silverfish probably won't help your career at all; in fact, it might even damage it. Like, you know, the other day on the radio I heard this story about this guy who wrote something for his school newspaper. It was about his sexual exploits or something kind of racy; years later he ended up becoming an elementary school teacher, but he couldn't get a job because the school districts would Google him and this crazy article kept showing up. He contacted the paper to try to get the article taken down, but they wouldn't do it. The guy ended up legally CHANGING HIS NAME so that he could get a job and leave this article behind him. And you know, at the Silverfish we also conform to the highest JOURNALISTIC STANDARDS, we would NEVER change something once it is posted! Plus, even the minimal newsletter we create is lots of unglamorous work. That said, Silverfish is a fun way to burn off excess creative energy, and I hope you all join."
Yes, I left that class feeling pretty good about Silverfish and Everything We Stand For.
Enter Three Weird Sisters:
Less than two months later our staff received an email from a former contributor requesting that we remove an article published last year, or at least remove the last name of the author, because the author now felt that tone of the article was "hostile." The staff stalled, offered to publish a note next to the old article explaining that it no longer represented the views of the author. We offered to link that to a new article in which the author would explain the change in perspective. No dice. The reply: "I understand if you guys don't want to remove the article from the archive, but would you be willing to remove my last name from the article? I am concerned about this because I am looking for jobs and don't like this article coming up on a GoogleSearch. I didn't perceive this being a big deal and thought you guys would understand."
Oddly enough, the utterances of one publicity officer to a roomful a people does not constitute a statement of policy. The actual Silverfish submission guidelines were not clear on this point, and even though this situation occurs at other student publications on a regular basis it had not yet been addressed by the Silverfish. After much hand-wringing, we have caved to pressure and changed the author's name. But this is not because we don't think it is a "big deal," and given the futility of the action in the current information environment, we certainly don't "understand."
You can see our new policy for articles here.
June 9, 2010