Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ghosts of writings past... and so-called fake news

For about eleven years, I wrote articles for a variety of online publishers.  I was like a lot of people, making a few extra bucks writing about what I know or about subjects that captured my interest.  I sold a number of articles and, for awhile, writing served as a steady source of pocket money.  Then all the content mills dried up.  Now I only write on my own blogs and make whatever Google pays me every few months after I earn over $100 in ad revenue.

Every once in awhile, I find old articles I've written on the Internet.  They are always credited to "contributor".  It's weird, too, because they always have a copyright sign next to them, even though I'm the one who wrote them.  Some of the articles that turn up include my own stories.  I'll give you an example of what I mean.

Many years ago, I remember reading an article about a celebrity who engaged in a practice commonly referred to as "chew and spit".  I want to say it was Glen Campbell, but I can't be certain, since I'm pretty sure I read the article in the 80s.  Anyway, I absolutely do remember that in the article, "chew and spit" was referred to as oral expulsion syndrome (OES).  Both terms refer to the practice of chewing up food and spitting it out rather than swallowing it.  

In the 80s, I was fascinated by the idea of chewing and spitting food.  In those days, I flirted a bit with eating disorders myself and was always looking for tricks to shed pounds while indulging.  Eventually, I mostly grew out of my obsession and completely forgot about OES.  Then, maybe six or seven years ago, I was a featured health and wellness writer on a Web site.  I had to write three articles a week and was trying to come up with an original topic.  That obscure memory of OES suddenly popped into my head.  I scoured the Internet for articles about it and came up with only a few very obscure references.  Jackpot!

So I started writing my article, aided by the fact that I'd recently read Dolly Parton's 1994 book My Life and Other Unfinished Business after a trip to a thrift shop.  That was during a time when Bill and I were broke and I was getting a lot of reading material at used book stores.  I'm sure at the time I read Dolly Parton's book, it was long off the best seller list and most people's radar.  But then, I was also writing book reviews on a site where I could even make money if I reviewed old books, as long as the review drew readers.

In her 1994 memoirs, Dolly had included a passage about dieting.  One of the techniques Dolly suggested was the practice of chewing and spitting, though she didn't refer to it as such.  So I wrote my very anecdotal piece and quoted direct passages from Dolly's book in which she recommended chewing and spitting.  I found information as to why this technique might be more harmful than she let on.  I added links from reputable health related Web sites.  Voila!  A new resource was born to be used and abused by the masses!

I'm pretty sure I sold that article to the publisher for a paltry sum.  Then, a few years later, the publisher went under.  But that article and others I've written are still out there, attributed to "contributor".  What's even funnier is that I've found that article referenced in other places, or hacked up by people who are claiming it as their own.  In fairness to the person whose article I just linked, I suppose it's possible she read Dolly Parton's book and decided to write about chewing and spitting, too.  It just seems eerily reminiscent of what I had written several years before.  Besides that, Dolly's book was twenty years old by the time this person wrote about OES.  

I guess it doesn't bother me to much to know that a lot of my work is out there and I'm no longer credited.  I think I'm more amused than anything else, especially since that article I wrote about OES was hatched from a very old memory and obscure details.  This is not to say that what I wrote wasn't factual.  I did do as much research as I could for the original article.  I would not have published it if all the information I had found were anecdotes or blog entries about chewing and spitting.  It's just that my article wasn't exactly peer reviewed or vetted by experts.  And now I see that information is being disseminated by others.  Maybe I'm partially to blame for "fake news".


  

2 comments:

  1. I've heard of chewing and spitting. I didn't know there were celebrities practicing the art.My Uncle mahonri was doing it (probably with food that he stole) since the 70's. He tried just once practicing his art during Thanksgiving Dinner at my grandma's home. Suffice it to say that it didn't go over well.

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    1. Eeew! Well, like I wrote, I seem to remember it was Glen Campbell that I read was doing it in the 80s... to the point at which he needed medical help to stop. I could be very wrong, though... I'm just saying that memory was the one that got me to write the article. As for Dolly, yeah, that shit is in her book. Mindblower!

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