15 April 2012

On why we need to value bloggers

There's an article in today's Fairfax Sunday liftout about mummy bloggers. The article features my blogging friends BabyMac, Edenland, Kerri Sackville and Naomi PT. I was excited to see them featured - gorgeous photos, and a feature on what I love so much - blogging. And then I read the article, disappointed to see that there were some huge errors of truth, and a great misrepresentation of these lovely bloggers and their intent.

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. :)


40 comments:

  1. As a blogger / columnist it is disconcerting and uncomfortable not being in control of what is written about me. As an author, I need to give interviews to publicize my books, but I far prefer telling my own story to having someone tell it for me.

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    1. Kerri it is a tough balance - we need media for promotion but it's hard to put our stories in others' hands.

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  2. As you know I am not a Blogger but I love to read them,learn from them and often comment on them.... because they are real.Real people with real stories to tell and truthfully done so.That is how they get the respect of their readers.Truth.
    I feel upset that the article is not written in a supportive light as blogs can and have helped many many people.
    The mainstream media need to take a long hard look at blogging and then they will see the power they have and the good that they can do with that power.
    Unlike the mainstream who seem to often only be concerned with the dollars they can generate,no matter who gets hurt, misquoted or misrepresented along the way.

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    1. Debt - it's about spin, the dollar and misrepresentation to get readership. It's sad.

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  3. There still seems to be a lot of pointing and staring at blogs and bloggers from the mainstream media, even though you'd think they would have overcome that, oh, about five years or so ago. But no - it remains odd enough for them to mark it out as different.

    I've had a blog since 2003 and it feels like a perfectly normal thing to me. It's fun to create my little place on the web and I love reading other people's blogs because they're full of personality and they're fun. All of these people who are being misled by mass media are missing out on something fantastic!

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    1. So true Katie - the mass media are behind - blogging is mainstream and bloggers are real writers.

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  4. I find most bloggers want to get facts right, that they want to be doing things ethically and responsibly. If they aren't, it's generally because they don't know better (but they're quick learners). Journalists must know better. No question.

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    1. You are so right. There is a code of ethics for journos. Bloggers that are doing it right have a strong sense of ethics and morality.

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  5. Spot on Carly.

    I tend to think part of the issue here is that blogging is a form of communication so well used by women - a la the mummy bloggers. The mainstream media - and society in general - have often devalued women's conversations and reduced such knowledge and insight to 'gossip' and 'old wives' tales'. I think we're experiencing a techno version of an old phenomenon. Where women continue to use those conversations for their own ends, and ignore the snarking, they become more powerful and can really support each other in a way few men ever get to experience. This version of support is so much more public than kitchen table conversation when the men were in the shearing shed, but I think it is very similar.

    For me, blogging about being a working mum allows me to provide a space for me to discuss this aspect of my life and hopefully to provide others with information and support thta helps them to. In my work life I manage PR at a high profile charity, and I have worked for senior politicians too, so haven't had trouble seeing my writing in the media or Hansard, but writing for a blogging audience is so much more me - more honest, more real, and I think probably better writing!

    Kirsten

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    1. I love this comment Kirsten. Thankyou for writing it. You are right - blogging enables support for women (and men) who may not have received it from traditional media and contact. People outside of the blogging community are curious. And they under-estimate the power of blogging. I think there's an assumption that using the internet is also time wasting - yet so much of my twitter, FB and email use is spent building connections. I'm not playing Farmville.

      Like you, my writing voice here is so much different to that of my day job. While I censor to an extent - choosing how to word things, and what to leave out - I don't tailor my voice to anyone in particular.

      Again, thank you for coming, and for linking.

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    2. Kristen- you hit the nail on the head.
      It is always a threat when women tell their stories.

      Paula
      Http://www.thriftymommastips.com/
      @inkscrblr

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  6. Wow! What a post! Carly, you've raised some very pertinent issues. And Kirsten's point is so very insightful. Following with interest!

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    1. Thank you Mrs Catch. I am glad it's generated some discussion :)

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  7. I rarely tell people that I blog. Most of my real life friends just wouldn't "get" it. They're footy/pub types and couldn't care less about computers.

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    1. Yep River, people don't get it. What's a blog?
      It's tiring when they don't share the same enthusiasm as you. I've learnt just to tell the people who care about me as much as I care about them :)

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  8. I'm appalled that mainstream media wants THEIR story to be yours - not your story to be yours. I'm appalled for you, Carly, that your story - your life - was not valued. And I love that you claimed back your power. I'm cheering for you. x

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    1. Thank you. As soon as I find my prince charming, it'll be on the blog....well, maybe I'll censor the story a bit... ;)

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  9. Loved this post. Yes! Your story. Your way. It's, after all, your life. More power to you!

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    1. Thank you Veronica - my story, my way. Bloggers' stories, bloggers' ways.

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  10. Bloggers tell stories whether they can be tied up neatly with a bow or whether they're sprawling and ugly with no resolutions. All too often, mainstream media seems to turn up with a fully formed story or an agenda and then attempts to use real people to tell their story or serve their agenda. That certainly seemed to me to be the case with today's article and is equally well demonstrated by the editor not wanting to tell your stories, but only wanting to write the one she'd constructed in her mind where you finally find true love.

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    1. You are right - when someone else tells YOUR story, it's what THEY have in mind. I do this when writing features. But I also do my best to let the subject (and their voice) shine through, representing them in the best way possible. Thank you for stopping by.

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  11. Blogs do stand alone and your story is yours to tell however you want to. The ending, like all things, is up to something else! I do still think that blogging is a bit self-indulgent and I've been trying to compose a post about that for ages. I'm getting now closer, so perhaps I don't really believe it. Perhaps.

    x

    PS - I haven't read the article. I'm not sure if I want to! x

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    1. Re self indulgence - of course it is or we wouldn't do it! I've been reading about concepts of empowered exhibitionism and sympathy seeking through blogging - and I found myself agreeing.

      You should write that post!

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  12. Bravo Carly - perfectly articulated!

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  13. So well written Carly. It articulated how I feel about the feature. And brought back memories when, as a journalist, editors wanted to sensationalise stories that were already fabulous stories. This is peoples' lives they are talking about.
    And like you, I always checked and double-checked facts.
    I also find that as a journalist I get ultra-quick responses to emails and requests ... as a blogger, these used to be ignored, but are now becoming increasingly read and replied to. Maybe Australia is finally catching up?
    We already know many companies and brands highly value bloggers for their honesty and integrity. And their influence.

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    1. Thanks Bron :) It must be hard as a journalist - compromising your own integrity to suit a media outlet.

      I hope to see bloggers being valued more very soon - that includes being paid.

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  14. My father has been in the IT world since the late 60's. He has seen a lot of change, but one of the things he regularly talks about is how the internet has allow niches to grow. Are you fanatically interested in a particular author? Possibly before the internet you knew one or two people who you could talk to them about. With the internet you can join groups with hundreds, if not thousands of like minded people. Same goes for specialty retailers. Prior to the internet, you might have struggled with few people in your geographic area interested in your product. With the internet, you can supply people all over the world.

    For me blogging is like this. Bloggers in general are writing for a fairly niche audience, but the internet gives us access to them and through our interactions we become like family. I don't think mainstream media understand this yet. They are still like the supermarket, offering a wide range of generically appealing product, not delving into the speciality.

    Not only that but blogging is a form of self expression and people who do express themselves, particularly those that do so clearly and effectively seem to often be thought of as self obsessed.

    When I mention I write a blog, I often find that people want to peg me into a spot. Is it a fashion blog, a food blog, etc, etc? When I reply that it is about things that make me happy I get a strange set of responses from blank stares, to questions about what makes me happy, but often I get something along the lines of "well that is a bit self indulgent isn't it?".

    I don't think it is. I think that it is a creative outlet, my little happy niche in the world and if people are interested to read it they are most welcome. I can only see bloggers becoming more and more followed and am sure that we aren't going anywhere soon.

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    1. Oops sorry for the giant comment!

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    2. I love this long comment - so well thought out. Re the definition of bloggers - I find I don't really have a place. Not quite a food blogger, not quite a fashion blogger, definitely not a mummy blogger, perhaps a chronic illness and entertainment blogger.

      I do think we have so much access to fantastic writing online, and it is often surpassing that of the 'mainstream' traditional media. The notion of blogging allows us to consume stories into bite sized chunks - perfect for us who have been conditoned to shorter attention spans due to the internet! What an irony.

      As for self indulgence - I don't think so. I think there is always an element of narcicism, but it depends on how you are going to express that as to whether it is visible on your writing.

      Delete
  15. Great post Carly, really great post.

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  16. Carly, I finally got here. GREAT post. While my situation is totally different to yours in a factual sense, from the perspective of "For me, blogging is a way I can tell my story, unedited, uncensored" we are very similar.

    The newspaper article that triggered these articles I am reading seems to have vanished into the ether, which may mean you all had an impact. Either way, if you look at the proposed media "controls", we are all (yes, me included) caught in the "blogs with more than 15,000 page views a year" and the costs of compliance may shut us down - let us hope not.

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    1. Thank you so much for coming and commenting. I edited the post above to state that the original article has now been removed from the internet.

      I am glad blogging helps you tell your story too. I am going over to your blog to check it out soon :)

      I can't believe I'm getting more than 15000 page views a months! Every time I see my stats, I am thankful for my readers, and relish this community. Today, as I was published on News Limited's The Punch, I knew my blogging community would have my back when I saw the comments!

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    2. Glad to hear the article was removed from the internet.

      Mark that one down to "Blog Power"!

      Delete
  17. Awesome post, Carly ... it's a bloody powerful community we're a part of!

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  18. Hi! I am visiting from UBP 12. This is my first visit to your blog. I love this post and I can only say that bloggers are a huge threat to an entire industry. That is why that piece was so biased. Also majority of bloggers still are women so we have the threat to patriarchy as well . Such a load of crap really. I believe bloggers are doing traditional journalism just in a different medium and some of the best writing out there is happening on blogs. We are competing for ads too. So I get the threat.

    Paula

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