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Bloggers Need to R-E-S-P-E-C-T Real Writers

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Guest blogger Kimberly Seals Allers: As a real journalist (yeah, I said it!) who has both an undergraduate (NYU) and masters (Columbia) degree in journalism, someone who has spent over a decade studying and applying herself to the craft of writing and someone who is a (not self-) published author, I'm starting to get a little peeved at all the bloggers and wannabe writers who have no respect for the real McCoys and the writing art form.

woman using computer
I mean, some of these bloggers think "The Elements of Style" is fashion-makeover show! I don't walk into a hospital and presume that, because I love body parts and I love cutting and have been doing it virtually online for years, I should be called a surgeon. It's insulting. 

Recently, I was working as an editor on a project that was paying writers (i.e., real journalists with writing experience who could research and report on a topic) one rate, and bloggers a lesser one (to share their opinions in brief posts). Well, one high-on-her-horse blogger was highly offended that she couldn't get paid the "real journalism" rate for her blog. The debate went on for days, and her chagrin and outrage went on, too.

Seriously, there's a difference between a blog and real journalism. Please learn it.
 Truth is, there are a lot of people (OK, bloggers and social-media folks) who wake up one day and fancy themselves writers -- or even (double gasp!) journalists. I'm sorry, but there's a difference between writing down your personal opinions in a 400-word post and knowing how to build a compelling narrative arc or how to compileresearch and interviews into a solid book chapter.

Let's face it: Most bloggers are good at marketing, building community and relationships, speaking to their crowd and self-aggrandizing promotion. But they're not good at writing. I'm sorry, but it just needs to be said. I always tell people that I'm a journalist and author who happens to blog -- not the other way around. Please don't get it twisted. As Erykah Badu said (not while she was famously tweeting during childbirth, but in one of her soulful songs), "I'm an artist and I'm sensitive about my sh*t." And right now, I'm feeling real sensitive about mine.

Really, it's not the bloggers' fault. And I'm not trying to bite one of the hands that feeds me. Actually, I blame the Internet. Somewhere between the immediacy of the World Wide Web, citizen journalism and the blogosphere, the lines between real news and blogspeak got blurred. The lines between real journalists (who do crazy things like fact check and interview other people) and opinionated talking heads (whose real skill is driving Web traffic) got blurred.

Last year, I wrote a damn good (if I may say so myself) tribute post to Michael Jackson that spoke to my hopes and dreams for all black boys, including my own son, Michael. At the end of the post, I quoted a line from a Maya Angelou poem -- quote marks, em dash and all. But some overzealous blogger who didn't know an em dash from an M&M started circulating the whole post, saying it was the latest Maya Angelou poem!
 The post spread over the Internet, landed on several urban-legend websites and got me e-mails from as far away as New Zealand, all asking if I or Maya Angelou was the author of the post.

Now, it's an honor (let's face it -- a writer's dream) to be confused with Maya Angelou on any day, but some overzealous blogger who doesn't know punctuation and moved too quickly didn't know how to recognize attribution. 
Even more tragic is what happened to Shirley Sherrod, the former Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture, who was prematurely fired after a blogger took pieces of her speech totally out of context. The blogger -- who was mistaken, and yet was viewed like a real journalist trained in newsgathering (big mistake!) -- couldn't be bothered to listen to or present Sherrod's entire speech.

This is dangerous territory, and what makes me really miss real journalism. Meanwhile, we need to stop presenting blogs as legitimate news sites, and some bloggers need to recognize that blogging does not necessarily a writer make. In the meantime, I'm shouting out just a few of my favorite real-mom writers and real journalists and authors who also happen to blog:

The truth is, journalists, writers, bloggers, vloggers, tweeters and cheaters can all coexist. The Internet is big enough, and it's open all night. But we have to respect each other's sh*t.

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202 comments so far | Post a comment now
Leah September 23, 2010, 5:24 AM

Bitter much? Just because you got a degree saying you can write and call yourself a journalist doesn’t mean you really are, sweetie. Many bloggers are very talented writers. Writers simply are by doing -they don’t need a fancy degree to make them so. I have oodles of friends with journalism degrees who do nothing with writing - it’s a throw degree (and I say this as one who minored in journalism)

Any time someone does better than you in your field you seem to write a post whining about it. Maybe you’re jsut not as good as you think.

Ingrid September 23, 2010, 5:52 AM

No real journalist that I know would use so many parenthesis in an article. Or even a on a public rant. It’s a brave new world out there, sweetie, what with the new fangled internet and all. Work on your own writing skills and then get back to us. :)

Sol September 23, 2010, 6:24 AM

I suspect those who comment on this article are not going to get your point. Instead they will be defensive and snark away.

That is a shame.

There is clearly a difference between true journalistic intent and straight blogging. Bloggers should recognize this.

slee September 23, 2010, 6:39 AM

The problem is your argument loses all credibility in it’s being non-compelling, alienating the audience, and being a ranty-blog post. Yes there is a difference between journalism and blogging. There is also a difference between tearing others down for being proud of their work and highlighting that difference.
A lot of bloggers have degrees, some of them in journalism, some of them in luterature, and some of them in agriculture. Some bloggers are still students, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are all real writers.

slee September 23, 2010, 6:39 AM

The problem is your argument loses all credibility in it’s being non-compelling, alienating the audience, and being a ranty-blog post. Yes there is a difference between journalism and blogging. There is also a difference between tearing others down for being proud of their work and highlighting that difference.
A lot of bloggers have degrees, some of them in journalism, some of them in luterature, and some of them in agriculture. Some bloggers are still students, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are all real writers.

gorillabot September 23, 2010, 6:40 AM

Pompous much?

MommyLisa September 23, 2010, 6:48 AM

Okay - you got comments that I was going to leave. Seriously??? I KNOW the difference between serious news and opinion. I am a blogger - NOT a journalist. Thank GOD because I actually am comfortable with that. You apparently are not comfortable with your own self.

Rita September 23, 2010, 7:03 AM

I’d like to see some of you bloggers get a job where a degree in journalism is required. Journalists know the rules and ethics of writing an article whereas some bloggers don’t or just don’t care. Usually, a blog is a matter of opinion. A genuine news article written by a journalist with a degree is comprised of facts and research.

Bloggers, get over yourselves. There’s room for everyone, journalists included.

Jo September 23, 2010, 7:24 AM

Yes, there is a difference between journalism and blogging. But you can not unequivocally say that journalism = “real” writing and blogging does not.

I’ve seen some crap writing by journalists and some world-changing writing by mere bloggers. A degree doesn’t necessarily bestow talent. It simply means you had the luck to attend (and be able to afford) a formal higher education. Get off your high horse and examine your privilege, please.

By your definition, Thomas Paine wasn’t a “real” writer. After all, he didn’t have a journalism degree, much less a degree from an Ivy League institution, like you! In fact, he stopped his formal education at 13 years old, after just 5 years of grammar school. What a loser! He also (self)published all those cute little pamphlets of his. The horror!

Nevermind that he helped re-route the course of American history with his words. None of that matters, apparently, since he doesn’t share your officially-bestowed credentials and pay stubs to prove his worth.

Kim Woodbridge September 23, 2010, 7:56 AM

Wonders if a real blogger would have noticed the stray character marks and removed them before publishing the article …

Jen B. September 23, 2010, 7:59 AM

I love how all the bloggers got offended and took it up the a$$!
I am neither a blogger nor a writer by any sorts but it’s not hard to tell when someone is writing for the hell of it.
No ladies, blogging does not make you writers. It makes you, a blogger.
Someone who has access to the Internet and someone who has way too much time on their on hands.
YOU, bloggers, are the one who are ‘bitter much’, I’m sick of all these stupid bloggers acting like they know everything.
It’s not a real job; no education required. Remember that :)

Expat Mum September 23, 2010, 8:00 AM

I don’t think many bloggers go round calling themselves “journalists”. If they build up an audience it’s because they are delivering something that their readers want. Sometimes it’s content, and sometimes it’s writing style.
Most people know that there’s a difference between blogging and journalism when they are reading a blog.

Laila September 23, 2010, 8:17 AM

I make a living as a “real” writer - I put that term in quotes for anyone who IS a real writer knows writing is more than knowing rules of writing or having a degree. It is being able to master language in a manner that resonates with readers. And as a writer, I accept ALL forms of the art - poetry to prose to news writing to blogging. One is no better nor more important than another.

I feel it is once again Ms. Allers own saltiness that prompts this blog. If you are indeed a great journalist you will not need to blog about it - your news articles would have spoken for themselves - which clearly in your own estimation they do not. You needn’t put others down in order to make yourself feel better.

Bev September 23, 2010, 8:18 AM

Wow, for a woman who does not respect ANYONE she certainly feels entitled to unearned respect and accolades.

Christina  September 23, 2010, 10:39 AM

Way to go Kim! Well said. It’s about time.

Sam September 23, 2010, 11:13 AM

Wow, for a woman who is paid to work as a blogger, you’re cutting your nose off to spite your face there.

A few notes: anyone who has worked in a newsroom knows that a journalism degree does not a journalist make. And there are some awful journalists just as there are terrible bloggers.

While as a journalist I can agree there are bloggers who don’t quite understand that being given a forum does not make one a talented writer, perpetuating the idea of a journalism degree as the only means to share one’s thoughts with the world is a mockery of the freedom of the press ideals upon which this country was built.

Being a good writer can’t be taught. Being an ethical person does not come magically out of a college.

MTJAM September 23, 2010, 12:45 PM

I’ve read brilliantly researched and beautifully written blogs. I’ve also read some truly terrible ones. Equally, I’ve encountered journalism in tabloid newspapers and women’s magazines which have made my toes curl. I don’t consider either medium to be superior - they both have a valid place in the modern world. I am a blogger. I don’t consider myself to be a journalist as I don’t report on anything other than observations on life. I am in no doubt, however, that I am a writer. No qualification required.

Friar September 23, 2010, 3:38 PM

Writers, bloggers….

Oh, get OVER yourselves…ALL of you! :-)

Anna September 23, 2010, 5:26 PM

Unfortunately, your disgust with the trend in writing is only going to continue. People are uninterested in fact based journalism…lets be honest…the big three networks and ALL major newspapers fill what should be fact based reporting with opinion. People want to be entertained. I am glad you didn’t say that you were “disrespected.” I hear that all the time on the news and see it in articles and it just bothers me.

Pamala September 23, 2010, 5:30 PM

I’ve never heard of one blogger I read refer to themselves as a journalist. I doubt they would as well. Most do refer to themselves as writers. And more power to them. You don’t need a fancy degree to be a writer. I’d hazard to guess that many authors don’t have fancy degrees.

I do have to agree with the comment above that a great writer would have proof read her work and realized the errors in the post that was pasted over to here.

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