Skepchick Quickies 9.1

  • Chronically skeptic – A great post by Joey about how people with chronic illnesses are targeted by and vulnerable to purveyors of woo.
  • I see dead people! – The combination of title and cover picture for this book is pure gold.  From jes3ica.
  • Blogger asks for payment from newspaper  – The Tampa Tribune published an article by blogger Tina Dupuy without her permission, so Tina made this video.
  • Girls get head start on snake and spider fear –  “Before their first birthdays, girls but not boys adeptly learn to link the sight of these creatures to the frightened reactions of others, a new study suggests.” From Emory.


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. I thought the response from the newspaper made a lot of sense. Sending an article unsolicited to a newspaper without request for payment legally and ethically means they can do pretty much what they want with it. The professional writers I know won’t even finish an article until it is paid for.

  2. @davew: Actually, I was thinking the same thing.

    It’s good that Ms. Dupuy is a writer and that her blog is original-based content – so many blogs that comment on current events do simply attribute print media with little to no reference. But if she didn’t specify she expected to be paid for her submission, did she really think the newspaper was going to pony up all on its’ own? She pointed out she worked as a columnist – you’d think she would know better.

    I have several journalist friends. They would never submit either an article or photo to a paper without payment or some sort of contract first. I’m not saying what the newspaper did was right (they should cough up, it’s not that much money and they did use her content), but caveat venditor in this newspaper market.

  3. @Chasmosaur: I can’t listen to the video at work. From what I gather from the post, they used her writing without her permission. Could you clarify? Did she submit her post/article and they used it? Wouldn’t be submitting it be giving permission to use it? I’m confused.

  4. @marilove:

    Yeah, she submitted to them without providing any stipulations as to payment or requiring her permission before publication. At least, that’s what the editor said, and she didn’t dispute that in her video.

    I guess it would have been nice if the newspaper had contacted her first, but it doesn’t seem like they actively wanted to screw her here.

    Also I’m not sure why she kept saying “I’m a blogger” over and over, unless she was trying to set herself up for special pleading.

  5. @jtradke: Okay, I thought a lot of publishers won’t accept unsolicited writings to avoid this kind of stuff? I think ethically the paper shouldn’t have just published it without her knowledge (and someone should have foreseen something like this happening), though I don’t know that she, the blogger, has a legal leg to stand on.

  6. First, nobody expects to be paid for a letter to the editor. Yes, her piece was an essay, not just a short letter, but if you send in an unsolicited essay without even hinting that you expect payment, don’t act shocked! shocked! that it gets treated like an unusually long letter to the editor.

    Newspapers get piles and piles of unsolicited essays from people just hoping for the tiny chance that the newspaper will give them a big platform – no payment expected if they become one of the very few lucky ones that actually gets published. If you are expecting payment, it’s rather naive not indicate from the start that you’re writing professionally and aren’t one of the vast unwashed masses seeking only publication.

    There’s one way that I could become much more sympathetic to the blogger: ***Has this newspaper posted or published the usual “Writer’s Guidelines” that major publications typically have?*** (And they usually _do_ have them expressly to avoid misunderstandings like this.) If those guidelines state “we pay $75 for published opinion essays” then this blogger is 100% in the right. But if such Writer’s Guidelines exist, then why, ferchrissakes, wasn’t the blogger vigorously waving a copy of them in her video???

  7. @ekimbrough: So it was treated as a letter to the editor?

    “If you are expecting payment, it’s rather naive not indicate from the start that you’re writing professionally and aren’t one of the vast unwashed masses seeking only publication.”

    I agree with this.

    Also, she is now published! This isn’t a bad thing.

    I wish I could view the video. Does it seem like she’s just trying to get attention? Publicity?

  8. @marilove: “I wish I could view the video. Does it seem like she’s just trying to get attention? Publicity?”

    Clearly she’s trying to get attention, but I think she feels genuinely wronged. On the other hand the video editing is a notch or two beyond pretentious so maybe it is a joke. On the other other hand even if it did attract the attention of a potential employers it would also identify Tina as someone you’d never want to work with so what’s the gain?

  9. @davew: I get the feeling she did something dumb, regrets it, and is now trying to use the internet to get publicity so she gets paid.

    Maybe I should feel bad for her, but I don’t. She submitted her article willingly. No one took advantage of her. She is published now. Time to move on.

  10. @davew: Yep, I agree. I was a bit put off by a tone that sounded like “Don’t these people know who I AM???” If you’re friggin’ Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, the “How could they possibly not KNOW?” routine would actually make sense. But for an obscure blogger, it just comes off as self-important.

    @marilove: It was apparently published as a separate opinion piece, not as one of several mere letters, but I think you caught my point that it was treated like a reader-submission that luckily got featured rather than as a pro-writer-submission that got purchased.

  11. @ekimbrough: “but I think you caught my point that it was treated like a reader-submission that luckily got featured rather than as a pro-writer-submission that got purchased.”

    Yep, that’s what I was figuring.

    Did she really do the whole “Do you know who I AM?!” bullshit? For reals? Wow. Okay, seriously, this woman is just out for the attention at this point. Either that or she’s delusional.

  12. I don’t know about anyone else, but my lifelong fascination with all things “icky” (snakes, spiders, bats, bugs, all of it) began when I was very young. Not an aversion, a fascination. My parents enrolled me in a snakes and spiders course at the local museum and it was all over for me. I don’t know about my reactions in infancy, but I cannot remember a time when I was not enthralled by these creatures.

  13. As to the icky, creepy things: I’ve been reading the comments here wondering whether I’m supposed to be appalled at the mere intimation that there might be something fundamentally different about males and females. But so far not many people have said anything about it. So I’m not sure what position I’m supposed to take.

  14. @mikespeir: I dunno. I was never very afraid of creepy-crawlies. Most men I know HATE spiders. I really am not bothered by them. I don’t know how I reacted as a child, though.

    Besides, I don’t know if this is a negative thing. Isn’t it thought that humans (and animals in general) have an innate fear of snakes because we evolved to know they are dangerous? Perhaps baby girls just instinctively know: DANGER! DANGER! when they see creepy crawlies.

    I think some people get stuck on the “fear” part of this study. Fear isn’t necessarily negative.

  15. Here I’m guessing that it has more to do with girls picking up on social cues better than guys. Girls note “Other people seem to not like this. This must mean it’s something that might be bad for me.” Boys tend to charge blithely ahead.

    Of course, then you have my niece, four years old and wants to be an entomologist.

  16. @Mark Hall: “Here I’m guessing that it has more to do with girls picking up on social cues better than guys. ”

    You were so reading my mind! I came to comment something similar. Though I was going to expand it a bit, and say that it may also have to do with how others react to *them* discovering bugs. When a little girl pokes a worm, does her mom or whomever tell her no, that it’s dirty and gross and scary? When a little boy pokes a worm, does his mom or whomever laugh and say boys will be boys?

    Even at 1 years old, children pick stuff up very quickly.

  17. Heh. I wound up microwaving worms at one point, to “wake them up.” Fortunately, never long enough that they exploded.

    @marilove: I don’t doubt that’s a big part of it. My s-i-l hates bugs, herself, but is supportive of her daughter.

  18. I’ve always been fond of snakes and kept a couple as pets when I was younger. This clearly was not what one of my more obnoxious students expected when he brought a baby boa to my office and let it slither out of his back-pack onto my desk. Ooooh, says I, how adorable! May I hold it? Where did you get it? Does it have a name? Not the shrieks he was hoping for. [I later got to flunk the little twit for plagiarising with nary a qualm. I expect he went on to work for Enron or AiG or a large religious organisation.]

    I also like tarantulas and daddy-long-legs [yes, I know, arachnids, but not spiders] and those cute tiny green ones. Wolf spiders, however, evoke a visceral dread.

  19. As a kid I used to keep snakes as pets. I would often have as many as a dozen at at time. I know this is strictly anecdotal, but my experience with showing my snakes to friends was that girls were LESS likely to have an unreasonable fear of snakes than boys. Girls would often fear them, but it would almost always be for a “reason” (they thought they were slimy or poisonous or vicious or something). Once I could assure a girl that they did not have these characteristics, they would usually be fine with them. On the other hand when boys feared snakes, it would be with an unreasoning pathological fear that no amount of reassurance could overcome.

  20. I really don’t like spiders, never have. My dad says I was scared of them as early as I could point worriedly and say ‘pider! pider!’, so maybe I was picking up on social cues there too. I’ve trained myself to not be scared of the really little ones (can even pick them up) but anything much bigger than a centimetre really freaks me out and I have to get someone else to move them (I won’t let them kill it though, unless it’s a whitetail).
    On the other hand, other bugs don’t really bother me (except moths when they divebomb), I kind of like snakes (have never really ‘met’ one though) and I love rats, used to have them as pets.

  21. @Vengeful Harridan (Elexina): My husband and I are like that.

    I do have a wee bit of spider heebie-jeebies, but that’s easily traced to waking up with a big furry spider on my face when I was sleeping in our cool basement one hot summer night. And that was in my teens – before then, they were just another bug (’cause I didn’t know better).

    But as a former paleontologist? No snake fear for me. But my husband has an absolute fear and hatred of them.

  22. @Vengeful Harridan (Elexina): Yeah, a lot of men I know hate spiders. I get the fear, though — it seems almost natural for humans to be afraid of spiders.

    Unless it’s a black widow or similar poisonous spider (I grew up in the desert and now live in Phoenix, so they are fairly common), I just put them outside or ignore them. The (woman) security guard and I here at work always point out the bugs we find. “What IS that?!” Then we put it outside.

    Once a praying mantas somehow got inside. That was an awesome day.

    I’m not going to seek out bugs, but they don’t bother me too much. Except for maybe those huge, fat moths as big as my hand, that used to get stuck in printers and other random stuff around the house. *shiver* Those creeped me out for some reason.

    And I’m not overly fond of hroseflies D:

  23. @Chasmosaur:


    THAT fell on my head in the shower once. LOL

    And once a non-poisonous snake ended up in our attic. I was watching tv when a couple little baby snakes fell on my head. My dad was like …. it’s rainin’ snakes!

    Still not as great as the time my mom opened the front door, only to discover a rattle snake curled up on the door step. She slammed the door just in time.

    Ahhh, desert living. :)

  24. @marilove:

    And the only word I have for that spider isn’t a word so much as a primal, simultaneous gag/recoil reflex.

    That summer of field work in the Costa Rican jungle exposed me to some big-ass spiders – big, Arachnophobia-movie looking ones. This one is creepier, though.

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