WASHINGTON -- I have the uneasy feeling that I failed to make the cut for a really cool group, the New York Times' Influentials. They have some kind of discreet identifying lapel pin, a secret handshake and private parties I am not invited to. I can't prove this, but I know it.
According to a Times press release, just about half of the registered users of its Web site, NYTimes.com, are "Influentials."
And what, you may well ask since you, like me, are probably not one of them, are Influentials? They are, explains the Times eerily prescient with an answer, "opinion leaders who are highly engaged in their community and workplace, well-informed and well-connected -- as compared to only 10 percent of the general population. ..."
Right there, I, at least, am in trouble. My role in the community and workplace is pretty much to avoid meetings and being named to anything that includes the words "committee" or "task force." And how well-informed could I be if I had never heard of an Influential until now? And if I were well-connected I'd be invited to private sessions with other Influentials to put our feet up and kick around ideas for world peace with Pope Benedict or President Bush.
On the surface, being an Influential sounds really cool. "Further," the Times press release continues, "the Influentials represent the 10 percent of the population who shape the attitudes and behaviors of the other 90 percent." But when you think about it, the Influentials have a lot to answer for -- cell-phone manners, pleated pants, taking up two parking places at the mall, reality TV and those galoshes young women wear in 95-degree weather.
The Times profiled its Influentials by asking them questions about what they have done in the past 12 months.
Eighty-three percent of them have voted, but it seems to me a 17 percent non-voting rate is kind of high for a group that considers itself Influential. Almost 30 percent have written an article for a newspaper or magazine. I write for newspapers every day. If that's influential, it would explain a lot of the weird stuff going on. The Influentials are big on giving speeches, attending public meetings and political rallies and serving on committees, activities where I tend to be discreetly absent. The Influentials also call into live radio and TV shows to express their opinions, which reinforces my opinion that they have a lot to answer for.
Still, I feel spurned at not being a New York Times Influential and consigned instead to the 90 percent rabble whose attitude and behavior is being shaped for them.
I feel especially rejected because I am a faithful consumer, as we now call readers, of the Times, perhaps excessively so; I get the paper both at home and at the office. But the Influentials are culled from people who register with the Web site.
This might be my problem, why I didn't make the cut. I don't register with Web sites. I don't know why, I just don't. I don't fill out questionnaires or answer surveys, either. If I did register, I would lie. I keep meaning to construct a false identity, but torpor always overtakes me.
Wait. I think I know how I can become an Influential. Do you think "Thomas Jefferson" or "James Madison" would be too obvious?
Scripps Howard News Service