Indignant journalists take heed – writers come in all sizes

May 11, 2009

When people ask about my vocation I tell them I write for a living and have been doing so for 20 years. When they prod a little, I say I write practically anything. When they push more, I break it down to an easy-to-understand “journalism, advertising, marketing, opinion columns, blogs and Bar Mitzvah toasts”.

Raised eyebrows and quizzical looks come from all quarters.

Newspaper reporters (most of them freelancing now) wonder with righteous indignation how I can balance reporting and copywriting. The long-standing bias reporters have toward flacks comes through and they wonder if I’m not just a paid pen for hire. Unvoiced is the skepticism that anyone can maintain critical thinking and ethical balance if they write more than one form.

I say balderdash…partly because I never get to use that word in any of my writing and mostly because that contention is crap.

A comment on Twitter the other day said that the vast percentage of bloggers are unable to write with the same ethical integrity as trained journalists. I emphatically agreed and was chided by a woman I consider a traditional journalist.

My reasoning – slightly difficult to put into 140 characters – is that bloggers come in all shapes and sizes. They are people who want to share what they ate for lunch, who they met that day, the bad parking photos they took, amusement park ride reviews, naked photos of themself, stories and rumors they heard, and also some who report the news.

Just take a look at three of my blogs and tell me that they all serve the same purpose. Bowl of Cheese, Things to Worry About, TDF08.

BOC is a rant site. I talk about how people are idiots and how the world would be better if I were running it.

TTWA is a random site that gives voice to my fears – however ill-conceived.

TDF08 is a reporting site with a dash of editorializing.

Balance those three – or any of my 12+ blogs – with my 20 years as a journalist and you’ll start to get a complete picture of the versatility present in my writing. I hope it will also open your eyes to the reality of writers who can write across a variety of forms and venues.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to start writing press releases any time soon. But I’m still going to write where the money is. And as news organizations lose more focus and funding, my best bet might be to do some J. Peterman pieces inbetween my tech analysis, social media training, commentary columns and sports reports.

What do you plan to do to bring in money? Would you, as a reporter, every cross into public relations? What’s your take on my argument?

Keep reading…and please comment. I’d like to know what you think.