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Authors and bylines – Academia effects ? December 17, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in contemplation, education, media.

In a comment to my post on why I am not too enthusiastic about anonymously authored blogs, Sudhir raises an interesting question, one that did not occur to me when I wrote the post. He asks:

I’m just left wondering if a persons identity has such an impact on a reader. I’ve never really given it any thought before! We probably cannot take anonymous bloggers too seriously because we cannot draw a mental picture of what they look like. Having said that I never seem to look for a journalists name in the newspaper even if i really enjoyed the content. Do you? just curious..

Yes, No and Sometimes.

“No” for news reports, “Yes” for analysis and opinion pieces that are either very moving or are on polarizing topics. And then there is an non-deterministic component that I will categorize under “sometimes” – where I look up for no particular reason. There are also times when it works the other way around – where you go scouting for articles by certain columnists and journalists. Too many to name they are, but as regular blog readers would know they are mostly from the NYTimes, Indian Express, Hindustan Times, Hindu, Slate, Outlook, Livemint and The Pioneer.

So yeah, the identity matters. Why ?

I don’t know if this has got to do something with spending some time in academia/grad school where you talk of research papers and results in terms of the authors and groups/labs/locations and often over 15% of the paper content is “saying who said what before you say what you intend to say.” Any serious, life long academics want to weigh in on that ? 🙂

What do you think ?



1. Randomizer - December 18, 2007

For me, it’s just content. The context/history of the writer might *help* in the experience, but it is not a deal-breaker by any means. For instance, if I never knew that India Uncut was written by an Amit Verma, it wouldn’t bother me. Even now, I know very little about him besides his name… and it doesn’t matter as his content is awesome.

Also, I very rarely do the reverse – look for an article given an author’s name. I would think that very few people would do this 🙂 .

2. Randomizer - December 18, 2007

I must add though, that your point is not lost – I will update my blog with background info for helping the reader out with the context. Everything shall be there, except of course an indexable real name. 😛

3. Sharath Rao - December 18, 2007

All I would say is that we have very different online reading habits ; not sure who the outlier is, its probably not you 🙂

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