Is "amateur" an insult?

Microdoc News has responded to my piece on Mass Amateurisation with a corresponding piece taking me to task on using the word ‘amateurisation’ when I should use the word ’empowerment’ (Mass Amateurisation, Blogging and Google):

Mr Coates has done it again – created a wide sweeping panorama of ideas which seem to work but then once the euphoria of the idea has swept by, one realises that Tom has just kicked me and all the other webloggers in the guts. The concept of mass amateurisation is that kick in the guts — amateurisation is a pejorative term, belittling the efforts of thousands of webloggers.

I think it’s a shame that my piece has been read in this way. As I think should be obvious to pretty much everyone, I’m interested in weblogs and weblog culture and I’m proud to belong to that community of people. When I used the word ‘amateur’ I wasn’t intending to make any kind of value judgement – I was just describing a type of activity that was open to many people who were undertaking it not because they had to – and not for money – but because they enjoyed doing it and derived other benefits from it. There are clearly many extremely good weblogs with expert (or popular) appeal and there are also a great many weblogs that neither have – nor particularly look for – any relevance outside a small group of family or friends. I’m not sure I believe that whether they are ‘amateur’ or not necessarily has much bearing on that distinction. The web is full of sites by creative people who don’t get paid for their efforts. Many of these sites are dramatically more interesting and creative than commercial sites. They’re still amateur… And why can’t an amateur writer be at the very top of their field? After all only amateur sports men and women can compete in the Olympics…