schussman.com logo

 Credentials

I have a long fasination with credentials: Credentials to practice medicine, to repair copy machines, to teach college. This article raises another interesting credential issue: Credential to tell the news. Now, the substantive issue at hand is Apple's pulling of MacWorld Expo press credentials for web sites that it deems to traffic in rumor and speculation. This by itself is worth commenting on, because the Macintosh community tends to be so hard-core. They love Steve Jobs and they love everything that Apple produces, and they live and breathe new Apple news -- the same kind of news that Jobs likes to theatrically announce at events like MacWorld Expo. One might thing that early-press, even consisting of rumors, does nothing buy ramp up excitement for the events, raising interest and expectation; however, Jobs et. al. don't want "rumor" sites stealing their thunder, and they're so vigorous in their attempts to stop speculation that they're just not allowing some sites to come as press -- even sites that decry the label "rumormonger."

I can't imagine this doing anything but hurting the Mac community and the Apple bottom line. The publisher of one online Mac publication has vowed never to write about, or purchase, Apple products again. In a world where Mac advocates are fiercely loyal and hang in cliquey communities, something like this has to sting. I'm imagining a whole different kind of "switch" campaign now.

But on the subject of credential, one comment that Matthew Rothenberg makes is notable:

I'll also point out that this member of tech publishing's "old guard" understands how thoroughly the Web has blurred the line between journalists and enthusiasts. I've been tangled in this very semantic issue enough times myself to feel some sympathy for any company confused about who qualifies as "media" in this brave new world.

A good question about credentials is to ask who qualifies as a journalist, versus who qualifies as an enthusiast? Must it be occupational work to endow the former credentials? Must one be published in a particular arena to cross the threshold from enthusiast to journalist? Is "pros and amateurs" a useful distinction, one even analogous to the distinction between journalist and enthusiast?

I have given some thought to this issue, in a different context. If interested, try my paper Uncertain Certification: The Problematic Practice of Wilderness Medicine [pdf].