Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Metatalk: Blogging vs. Travel Writing or vice versa

In the pretend world of the blogosphere, where nobody really lives and everybody likes to visit, as an author, a reader, a pokey looker-arounder or what-have-you, there is a constant thrumming undertone.

Is blogging writing? Are travel bloggers writers? (or journalists?) They write, but are they writers? Their work isn't juried. Nobody edits it. If I had an editor I'd sound better, too (they say). There's no accountability. They're not (for the most part) getting paid. It's not writing. Writers and bloggers far greater than I have pondered the question, and sometimes uttered truths, or even cleverness, here here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. You can find this debate argued-til-blue all over the net, should you wish.

In addition to the fact that the undertone completely lacks a baseline and has really annoying lyrics like a scantily-clad popstar (sorry, I must sound off, they are showing that Shakira video where she's dancing in a flesh-colored unitard in a cage in the metro in Santiago. I can't even hear the lyrics because of all the "why are we watching near-p0rn in the metro" that is going through my head).

But I digress. As is often the case.

I am sick of the blabla about whether or not bloggers are writers. Are we magazine writers? Some of us are. Are we journalists? Some of us are. Published authors? See above. Is what we write any good? Well, what is "good" anyway? And some of it, yes. Very much, lather and rinse optional. There are some incredibly talented people out there who give away their writing for free (or sponsorship) for the love of the art or because when asked the question, "do you ever worry that you'll run out of things to write about," they answer, "No. I'm worried I'll run out of time before I say everything I need to say."

I'd like to spin this are-bloggers-really-writers on its head. Don't ask bloggers what make us think we're writers. Ask major magazines, businesses that sell stuff or any of a host of other wannabes (NYT, NatGeo, anyone listed here, I'm looking at you) what makes them think they're bloggers?

Why should we share a platform that individuals and groups of individuals have claimed for themselves to talk about what makes us sing, about what we've seen and what we need, how we educate our children, and deal with loss, and the photos we take, and the food we eat and the places we go with corporate entities? Don't corporations have enough real estate already? Call them informal news snippets, PR, facilitated discussions. In my game of pedrito paga doble (3 card monty) they always come up losers, sleight of hand be darned.

I am hereby unchecking the box on my itunes that corresponds to the "are bloggers really writers" song. I've got "are corporate entities and businesses and anyone who updates their webpage periodically really bloggers?" on an endless loop. I encourage you to do the same.


Margaret said...

Interesting. I confess I haven't read all your "here and here and heres" yet, but my overall take on this is that good writing gets read, poor writing gets forgotten. Doesn't matter what the format is.

One of the things that DOES concern me though has to do with education rather than format. Readers today have access to tons of unedited information and people (young and old) really, really, really need to develop critical thinking skills to help them weed out the crap from the gold. Once the crap filters are formed and firmly in place, they will decide for themselves who the good writers are--and where to find them.

Regina said...

Yes, bloggers are writers!

From time to time we even have editors ;)

Gary Arndt said...

I actually prefer to be called a blogger than a writer.

Much of the problem we have is that we don't have the vocabulary to describe all the different things people do. People with a blog use the written word. Does that make them 'writers'? Someone at a newspaper gets their text published online. Does that make them a 'blogger'?

Personally, I think blogging is more than just writing. I write the occasional article. I also do photography, some video, I spend a lot of time answering emails from readers, talking to people on Twitter, etc. I also have all the responsibilities of running my site.

As I define it, a blogger is someone who works for themselves and a writer is someone who works for hire. It is a messy definition and I hope better words come along in the future, but I think that is the best way to describe things as of 2009.

Richard said...

Adding to what Gary has already said, being a blogger can be a much more creative experience.

The corporates are unlikely to let their 'writers' take pictures or (god forbid) handle a video camera. As a blogger, you are as much exploring whatever creative mischief you feel like getting up to as much as you are doing plain old writing.

Besides, what difference will the classification make? If you have a blog (like, a real one, not PR-dialogue Incoroporated), then as long as you are doing with it the things that make you happy, why fuss over what they want to call you.

Eileen said...

I don't much care if people gossip about whether or not I qualify as a writer. The question I pose in the text is a real back-and-forth between me and a family member. We write because we write. You read because you like it (sometimes).

I thoroughly agree with all of you, and thank you for your comments and retweets. I mainly don't understand why corporations can't carve out their own niche, and why they claim to be bloggers. Being a blogger includes using only your own filter, and giving of yourself (say I), Being hired by a corporation to write news blips or interesting thises and thats is just that, blibs and thatnthis. Nothing more.

I understand (from Gary) that at the big blogamawhosis in Vegas (blogworld), no one on the travel blogger panel is an independent travel blogger. Why give them this? When I want to know what a blogger says or thinks, I want to talk to a blogger. An answers-to-noone, does-what-he/she-feels like, writes on his/her own time/dime blogger.

I could go on and on, but really would rather hear what you have to say. I already know my own opinion.

Kyle said...

"do you ever worry that you'll run out of things to write about," they answer, "No. I'm worried I'll run out of time before I say everything I need to say."

I have never heard anything like that but I love it. Fits exactly the way I've always felt.

The whole subject is complicated. I've been on both sides of the coin obviously blogging personally, but also blogging for a big corporation (AOL). In the beginning I would say that the blogs I wrote for could definitely qualify us all as blogger. Individuals were allowed to write what they wanted to write. However, later on, that model changed, and it's definitely much more corporate now with people "suggesting" what stories you write and how to write them. Hence, the reason I no longer work there.

Sara said...

I have had this arguement with a friend of mine who studied literature and can write poems in iambic pentameter and all that. She seems to think that blogging isn't writing. But I disagree. I think it is writing. It's sort of like journaling for some people, or for other people who spend more time it has a lot in common with the essay writing we suffered through (or enjoyed if you were me) classes in college.

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