twitter facebook stumble upon rss

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

sign up for the momlogic newsletter Tweet This

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.

next: Get Your Whole Family Healthy -- NOW!
202 comments so far | Post a comment now
laura September 23, 2010, 6:06 PM

I stopped reading after she tried to compare being a journalist to being a doctor. I’m sorry, I’m laughing too hard to type anything else.

Anonymous September 23, 2010, 7:08 PM

OMG get over yourself. There are no words worth blogging about that expresses my disgust with you. After all my Master’s Degree and twenty five years experience must be insignificant to you since I’m not in the “journalistic” field. Maybe I should just go sweep up your garbage. Would that be good enough for ya? Ooops wait, ya is not a word, I get it, I get it. That’s my dumb blogger mistake again.

Gail Cooke September 23, 2010, 7:49 PM

Rita: This person opened herself up to criticism. And because she was being such a hag, she deserves to have a few strips taken off of her. If “journalists” have a problem with bloggers…tough. It’s the bloggers who are probably the most honest. In fact, when I look at a news article or any “mainstream journalism,” I have to take out a barrel of salt..because I don’t feel journalists necessarily tell the truth. Bloggers are here to with it.

anonymous September 25, 2010, 3:07 PM

Anybody want to know how I found this article? I clicked on “Bloggers” and then her name. Wow.

EmmaK September 28, 2010, 7:13 AM

I don’t think it is fair to say that most bloggers can’t write. Firstly most bloggers don’t think they are journalists. Secondly you don’t need a journalism degree to be a good journalist. Thirdly your argument was so aggressive and badly argued that you have effectively proven you are a hopeless writer insofar as you have not convinced anyone of your views!

Dixon September 28, 2010, 3:10 PM

“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.”

Seems to me the problem is with the reader, not the writer…I know the difference between what’s written by a blogger and a journalist. But, the White House didn’t. If they can’t get it right there, what can you expect from YOUR readers?

M R Biswas September 28, 2010, 4:44 PM

All these are excellent analyses.
The genesis of journalism make it clear that all writers are not journalists. Mere writing a few piece for newspapers do not make one a journalist.

Annie @ PhD in Parenting October 2, 2010, 8:36 PM

I find the distinctions that are made in this post to be interesting.

I know that there are news articles that involve fact checking. There are also bloggers who write those type of articles and who do check their facts.

I also know that there are journalists (with the degree and the pay cheque from a major news organization that makes them “official”) who write opinion articles (editorials, columns) that are not only not fact based, but that also completely miss the mark.

It seems that part of “journalism” now is to write opinion articles that are so outrageous that they get people across the blogosphere to write about them and talk about them, thereby driving traffic back to the news sites that are fighting to maintain their readership.

Part of my work, as a blogger, is to call them on their bullshit and to point out the critical facts and logic that they overlooked.

Are these journalists who write outrageous opinion articles doing their job (i.e. bringing in the eyeballs/ad revenue) or not doing their job (i.e. forgetting to do their fact checking) when they spout opinions that are severely lacking in truth?

Meredith October 3, 2010, 9:27 PM

I get her point, and it is a bad one. Yes, journalists and bloggers are not always the same. A blog serving as a diatribe is more than a little ironic. As someone with all the requisite degrees,as someone who values the role journalists play in our intellectual world, as someone who writes and reads blogs, I’m embarrassed for Ms. Aller’s. What an odd trite tantrum announcing the world is round.

Andrea Collier October 5, 2010, 1:14 PM

I am, like Kimberly, a journalist by training. AND I am a writer. I understand her point. Journalists are held to a standard that can have them fired and ostracized. A journalist can lose her job if she doesn’t report, and try to do a balanced job. She can’t just lift or aggregate. Your professional colleagues will BLOG about you and have you standing on a street corner with a tin cup. Believe it. When you have your journalist hat on, your industry expects a standard. This does not mean that you have to go to J school to become a journalist. It means that you try to get balanced, fair and ethical reporting done. Rick Sanchez, a journalist got fired for not sticking to journalistic standards on the air.

I am also a writer. Sometimes I take off my reporting hat and just tell a story.When I blog, I am not a journalist. I am a writer—and it’s the world according to me. When I write an essay, it’s my story. And I think that is what many of us bloggers and writers do. We are successful because we tell a good story. Kimberly is both. She knows reporting standards and is a strong editor of other journalists. She is also a terrific writer with a strong voice.

To say that there isn’t lots of talk among journalists about the value of being a journalist, or if we should just chuck it and write for blogs isn’t true. I whine about it every morning. The reality is that lots of journalists who got training, worked hard and developed powerful rolodexes—to feed their families are being displaced by citizen journalists and bloggers who will write for free. It levels the playing field and makes 88 percent of us broke as hell. Just true. This is the wild wild west of media and literature. You can of course understand. It’s tough out there—for all of us. Love me some Kimberly though. If you are just learning the craft, Baby, you don’t even want to get into a write off against her. She’s the real deal.

Joyce E. Davis October 5, 2010, 2:11 PM

Thanks Kim for voicing your opinion and for standing up for journalists. Honestly, there does seem to be a war going on out there against factual reporting and the truth. As a journalist-author-blogger, while I’m not perfect, I do my best to create compelling articles, posts and books that are accurate factually and grammatically. I wish that all types of writers took the time to do the same. This level of diligence would make for a lot less confusion and misinformation that dominates all forms of media.

I am in full agreement with Anna, who spoke about audiences wanting to be more entertained than informed - across all mediums. It has driven even the most respected and credible outlets to embrace, promote and encourage salacious, thrown together, factually-suspect content. And that’s a shame. Because like several commented, there’s room for everyone’s style of writing as long as integrity and truth remain the basis for the communication.

And one more thing, for those commenting about Kimberly checking this post before it was posted, I’m sure you’ve submitted contributions to a blog, website, magazine, or publisher and had your piece appear with strange symbols. And FYI, as I do whenever I post anything, I did check spelling and grammar in this comment in Microsoft Word before I posted it. I know. I’m anal.

Love you Kim. Keep fighting the good fight!

Wow! October 7, 2010, 1:13 PM

My right hand is tipping my hat to you. My left is shooting myself in the head with an imaginary gun. Just as I’d like to believe that most people know the difference between good and back writing and good and bad food, the fact is, we live in a fast food society. As long as what we feed em “tastes good” so to speak, the grade matters little.

Diane Faulkner October 29, 2010, 9:04 PM

From another journalist who happens to blog, I thank you.

Well said.

journalismyes October 30, 2010, 4:30 AM

Write On, Kim!!!

Shakespeare November 5, 2010, 2:12 PM

I couldn’t agree more. I am getting fed up with seeing popular blogs that are littered with grammatical errors, poor sentence structure, and lack of valid research. I don’t think you have to have a degree to be a real writer (I do have my masters), but learn the basic elements of style before you publish anything. The internet becomes more and more of a waste dump every year.

dizimikacirdim November 20, 2010, 5:33 PM

Hello; Nice post for me. Your post has supporting. I want to has good posts like yours in my website. How do you make these posts? And you have a problem about your template.You should fix your problem about your template … I recently came across your blog and have been readingalong. I think I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this site often.Good day…

Medical Jobs December 1, 2010, 8:38 AM

found your site on today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

occupational therapy December 3, 2010, 11:05 PM

Nice site, nice and easy on the eyes and great content too.

panerai uhren December 4, 2010, 10:09 PM

I am sorry, that has interfered… This situation is familiar To me. It is possible to discuss.

blancpain December 5, 2010, 5:19 AM

In it something is and it is good idea. I support you.

Back to top >>