I'm writing an essay about someone who, through his journalism, inspired others to play baseball during a time when African Americans weren't accepted in the sport.
Although he inspired others, he wasn't a role model within the sport. He wasn't Jackie Robinson, but he wrote about Jackie Robinson in a prominent newspaper, which led to people reading about Robinson and being inspired.
So, would this man be an inspiration or an inspirer? Inspiration makes me think of a role model (which he wasn't); when John says "Van Gogh was my inspiration," you would think that van Gogh's work had a direct effect on John's own pursuits. You wouldn't think that van Gogh was the means by which another artist's work became more prominent and thereby affected John's work.
At least in my mind, inspirer sounds like he simply motivated others without being a role model, but it kind of sounds wrong to me--as if someone just tacked on an -er to inspire to form an agent noun (in fact, that's what I did, since inspiration didn't sit well with me connotatively even though it came to mind first). Yet, it exists over at Dictionary.com, so I imagine that it is a word of its own that has its own meaning independent of inspiration's.
Does this subtle distinction even exist? If it does, would it make a difference to a reader familiar with this subject who knows that he was not a role model?