bunny slippers

Paul writes that the American Dialect Society has chosen the 2004 Words of the Year. Winner in the Most Creative category is:

pajamahadeen, n., bloggers who challenge and fact-check traditional media.

First of all, this is a totally brilliant construction. Most Creative, indeed. But this is a phenomenon I totally don’t understand. The American Dialect Society doesn’t mean it this way, they’re just reporting… but “pajamahadeen” smacks of derision. Why do some people think that work cannot be important if you can do it at home in your pajamas? Me, I get more work done at home than in the office, most of the time. I mean, no meetings, no students dropping by, no construction workers drilling in the ceiling.

Digital reference had a bout with pajama-itis a few years back, when chat reference services were just taking off. There was a big discussion in the literature about whether or not a librarian needs to be in the library to staff a chat reference service, or even at the reference desk itself. (BTW, a big discussion in the dig ref literature means like 5 articles). The easiest thing here might be to just quote from a forthcoming journal article, and hope the publisher doesn’t get on my case about prior publication:

Hill, Madarash-Hill, and Bich (2003) state that only a small percentage of reference questions received electronically by their service required the use of the print collection. Calzonetti and deChambeau (2003), going further, argue that the reference questions received by their service could be answered “accurately and completely” (p. 38) using only electronic sources. In these cases, surely questions may be answered from anywhere, including the librarian’s home. Calzonetti and deChambeau state that librarians in their library’s chat service “found telecommuting from home during those evening hours to be an employment perquisite” (p. 39). Hoag and Cichanowicz (2001), taking this possibility to an extreme, relate that one of the librarians who staffs the chat service in their library was featured in a local newspaper answering questions in her own living room, in her pajamas.

Anyway, the point here is, as far as I can tell, the dig ref world has pretty well settled down about the whole pajama issue. Some librarians like staffing the service from home & some don’t. But those librarians who do like working from home, my sense is, their libraries generally don’t give them much grief about it, since it allows them to staff the service during hours that no one else wants, like evenings and weekends.

So, I wonder, will the journalism world similarly settle down about the pajama issue? Will the world come to understand that good reportage can be written while wearing bunny slippers, that a desk isn’t necessary to do good and credible writing? This is not a novel question, Fred brings it up in a recent post and this is a theme in We The Media. But what I’m asking is, will the credibility of blogs vs. professional journalism issue follow a similar trajectory as the at-the-desk vs. away-from-the-desk reference issue? The dig ref articles I cite above are from 2001 & 2003. So check back in 2-4 years & we’ll see where we are.

This is the first post I’ve ever made that’s needed a bibliography. Oy.

Calzonetti, J. A., & deChambeau, A. (2003). Virtual reference: a telecommuting opportunity? Information Outlook, 7(10), 34-39.

Hill, J. B., Madarash-Hill, C., & Bich, N. P. T. (2003). Digital Reference Evaluation: Assessing the Past to Plan for the Future. Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, 4(2-3).

Hoag, T. J., & Cichanowicz, E. M. (2001). Going Prime Time with Live Chat Reference. Computers in Libraries, 21(8), 40-44.