Two weeks ago, Jon Fingas wrote an interesting opinion piece for Engadget about how Amazon and Google selling hardware at a loss--a classic anticompetitive strategy--reduces choice and hurts consumers. Spotless corporate idols thereby insulted, commenters were angry. So,
Engadget he apologized to them.
As [he] tells it, the piece should have had more examples and “set a more neutral tone”. Um, why? To ensure that it’s yet another boring-as-fuck piece that no one would even get through let alone think about ever again? As a writer, I feel disgusted seeing such an update. As a reader, I feel even worse. It reads as if the Engadget editors think their readership to be morons who can’t think and/or reason for themselves beyond what they’re told.
Which would be a real problem, given that this situation arose because Engadget's contributor apparently believes,
or is made to accept (see update below), that readers are his critical equals.
In this view, the writer sees his job as not to share insight or perform acts of journalism or entertainment, but more a kind of PR filtration duty for a specified "community". The process of turning industry news into blog posts has long worn its own quasi-formal language: engaging and sufficiently stripped of marketing to be readable--with a hint of snark to establish that all-important critical distance!--but punctilious in its servicing of reader expectations.
Update: Engadget EIC Tim Stevens writes to point out that I was wrong to attribute the apology to Engadget itself:
The editorial went up and of course riled up a heck of a sandstorm in comments and elsewhere, as many good editorials often do. The editor in question, who is relatively new to us and hasn't written such a high-profile opinion piece before, wasn't prepared for the sort of vitriol he was receiving on all fronts. Beaten down by the hate, he began to second-guess his argument and posted the update, which has caused the subsequent storm.
Now, we have a policy for updates that materially change the content of the post. (Basically, anything more than quick additional bits of info or something like "Oops, that's out of stock now.") Those updates need to go through a senior editor for approval and anything big, anything that boils down to us blowing the story, needs to go through me. That didn't happen here, as this editor wasn't aware of the process. Had that update been run by me I would have shot it down, as would have any other editor, and it would have never appeared on the site.
This is an excellent policy, and I apologize for assuming that Engadget itself was responsible for the apology--even if it was removed without much explanation.
Unfortunately, it also means that my remarks on editorial confidence would apply directly to a specific person--Fingas. And they seem rather mean-spirited in that context. When it comes to your own writing, however, the fix is easy: stop worrying about what other people think, especially vitriolic commenters.