I know their stories through their blog. They tell them so well. With the honesty, integrity and humour that evokes empathy. No one else can tell their stories the way they do. And this article barely touched on the positivity of blogging. In fact, it was quite a dig at bloggers - suggesting the four ladies share too much of themselves online, at a cost to their families. And it was potentially damaging to the credibility of their blogs' content and to their reputations.
I just hope those new visitors to Eden, Beth, Kerri and Naomi's blogs since the article will get to know them as well as we, the loyal readers have. That's the good thing about blogging - the loyalty of the community.
I don't want to write too much more about the article itself, as I can't speak on behalf of these bloggers. But it did get me thinking - why is blogging not more highly regarded by the mainstream media (and those outside the blogging community) - particularly when in this case, the media got things wrong?
For me, blogging is a way I can tell my story, unedited, uncensored - yet still closely guarded - and without sensationalism. You may remember this blog I wrote about being in control and telling my story. For me it's particularly important that I do this - as I don't want to be portrayed as a freakshow or for sympathy by someone else telling my story.
Storytelling through blogging is valuable. It's a way to record history. It's truthful, revenue raising in some cases, and creates strong supportive networks. Then, why for some outside the blogging community, are stories told through blogs devalued through opinions in articles like today's? Blogging should be regarded as valuable as the mass media. It enables us to learn about real people directly.
And bloggers as citizen journalists are not taken seriously either. I don't know about other bloggers, but when I put out requests to publicists for interviews for this blog - as a blogger - I rarely get a response. It's easier to contact the actor/musician directly. But when I have put out a request as a freelance writer, I do get a response!
When I tell people I am a blogger, I get all sorts of questions. What's a blog? Isn't that dangerous, putting so much of yourself online? How much money do you earn? I get laughs and the phrase "you're so funny" - not in a I'm making people laugh way, in way that suggests that people just don't understand blogging. And though I have had some features in the mass media (them telling my story not me) I approached this with trepidation. I weighed up the costs - better to educate to those I may not yet have reached through my blog.
When I received my Yooralla Media Award, a speech was given by a presenter, telling me and the audience that online media is just as valued as mass media. That was in 2010. I see this in the blogging community every day. Blogging for social good. Bloggers talking about products with genuineness. Bloggers raising awareness. Bloggers building communities. So why isn't the mass media getting that?
This article detracted from all the good things the bloggers have written about.
A couple of months back, when I was off work sick, I felt my phone vibrating. I picked it up, and answered groggily - I'd been asleep. It was a journalist calling me - an editor of some sort. She called to find out how I was going since I was featured in a magazine. I told her her that I was going great - that I was off to the UK for some work experience, and then off to the US for a blog conference. And then I told her I'd won a Layne Beachley scholarship to help kick start my writing and speaking career. I asked her whether she'd received a press release about that, was that why she was calling. No, she said. It wasn't. She was calling to find out how my love life was going. A slow day in Hollywood perhaps?
I mentioned that I had done some unsuccessful internet dating. I mentioned the audacity and sheer rudeness of some of the men I had encountered. She asked me was the rudeness due to my skin? No, I told her. It is because some of the men who use these online dating sites are gutless, sexual predators. I said I'd written about it on my blog.
Any other men on the horizon?, she asked. Nope, I told her. So she said she'd go away and read my blog, and give me a call the following week. I saw she'd been reading my blog. For more than two hours. She read all the posts about internet dating. My heartbreak. And that one about sex. Lots of fodder, but no story with a happily ever after. Unless she wanted to offer me a job because she liked my writing so much. Then that'd be a happily ever after.
Sure enough, she called me as I was getting off the train one night. She told me she'd been reading my blog, that I wrote so well (thank you) but unfortunately she won't be covering a story on me at this stage. Not until I get my happily ever after. Not until I get my prince charming.
Right. So for all the good stuff I am doing, making a difference in the chronic illness, disability and facial difference community, writing, having fun, it's whether I get a man that matters the most. So perhaps the media would parade that happy ending - an appearance challenged woman getting a chance at love with a 'normal' man? I don't think so.
When I do find my prince charming, I'll be choosing how I let the world know - no one else will be telling my story for me.
I guess this post has rambled from the point a bit. Sorry. What I really want to say is that I believe telling our stories through blogs will ensure more honesty and integrity than the portrayal by the mass media will ever do.
Edit: When I tell other peoples' stories as a freelance writer or TV presenter or even in my day job, I want to do my best to get the facts right and represent them in the best way possible.
Edit 2: Eden, Beth and Naomi have posted brilliant and dignified responses to the Sunday Life article on their blogs. And you can also read further comments to the articles here:
A Blogger, A Writer. Same Difference - Alexandra Wrote
What are blogging mums really about? OR .. whatever happened to actual journalism? - Twitchy
Trash. Tabloid Journalism - Melissa
A Blog About Blogging Working Mums Australia
Edit 3: the initial Fairfax article that caused the controversy has been removed from the news websites, at Eden's request. Thank you for all your wonderful comments below - thanks for keeping this nice and adding food for thought. :)