PC Magazine runs a humorous last page (“backspace”) in every issue. It’s usually a bunch of funny misprints and typos, or photos of road signs, or other silly little chuckles. In this month’s issue (May 24, 2005), they decided to run a “Special Event: Bountiful Bonanza of Blogs.” The premise was set up this way.

Is blogging really the new journalism? Is mainstream media truly obsolete? We browsed through hundreds of blogs hosted at Blogger.com to judge for ourselves. Here are some highlights:

And then they posted the usual collection of silly blog entries–teenagers ordering new CDs, thoughts on dead skunks, “what I ate today,” and so forth. The piece was intended, apparently, to show how inane and insipid most blogs (contrary to “new journalism” claims) really are. A bit of sour grapes from a mainstream media outlet–no big deal.

But one of the entries they included was this:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Except PC Magazine did not attribute this passage (from the “Notebooks of Lazarus Long”) to Heinlein at all. They just attributed it to “About a Guy.” Now, maybe the unattributed quote (we call it “plagiarism“) orginates with “About a Guy.” But, as it turns out, there doesn’t seem to even be a blog by that name with that passage at blogger.com.

And, for pity’s sake, a very simple Google search, which one would think PC Magazine could manage, would have demonstrated right away that this passage has an author, a well-known and respected author, who has a right to be cited when he’s quoted!

UPDATE: To his credit, Don Wilmott responded very promptly when I emailed him about this:

Thanks for the heads up. Heinlein has many fans out there! We’ll be sure to give credit in an upcoming issue (the blogger obviously didn’t). I’m not too familiar with Heinlein so I didn’t catch it.

Don Willmott
PC Magazine

I guess he got more than a few of these gentle reminders! 🙂