this is not journalism

04.29.13

editor

See how there are no capital letters in the title? I’m not even sure that it’s not meant to be capitol or if I’m leading with the right words, or perhaps it’s a lede?

I won’t look any of these things up just for today because I feel a need to identify and share a few of the many things I do not know. I don’t know some basic spelling so I keep a dictionary nearby. I don’t know how to use a comma very well and my friend Lisa used to email me about this but I trust that she’s given up and decided that my comma abuse or neglect is something she will just have to live with. I don’t delay gratification well and I don’t always use good judgement.

I am human and deeply flawed as are you. 

Recently I was on a panel at a Social Media Club Los Angeles event and one of the things that I was unable to agree with the other panelists about is whether or not blogging can be journalism. I asserted that night (and I stand by this assertion) that without an editor it is impossible to be a journalist. I’m not worried that we can’t catch our own typos or come up with a decent lede (though it’s entirely likely that those two things are true). What I don’t think that writers are able to offer without a good editor is perspective.

When I tell you an apple is red an editor may ask what shade of red? Is it crimson or does it have a little tinge of green left where it’s not quite ripe? If I describe a vehicle as fast a good editor will ask me to define fast. Is it faster than a Honda Civic or is it faster than a late model BMW M5?

I’ve had editors for publications both online and offline and each of them has taught me something valuable. I’ve learned about getting three independent sources to verify a story (something I will never do). I’ve learned to not be inflammatory (something I also don’t want to do). I’ve learned to use enticing language without succumbing to ridiculousness and sounding like a 15 year old writing  poetry.

Editors aren’t necessarily better writers than you or I. The magic is that they’re a different person. Editors read your words without knowing what you were thinking when you wrote them, editors read your words similarly to how an audience will. The same goes for your images. Editors allow you one last opportunity to decide if you’re ready to stand behind your words.

Bloggers can be your best friend, in the absence of an editor a blogger can extol your virtues without ever looking at the other side. We basically write amazing opinion pieces or letters to the editor full of sound (and fury, signifying nothing). Bloggers also have things they dislike. Left to my own devices I’d explain to you that feeding your children Mc[Redacted] is much more efficient than punching them in the gut. A good editor would red ink that thing and remind me that I need proof of the liver damage that the frankenfood will provide.

You get my point.

We bloggers aren’t fair or balanced even when we strive to be (and most often we aren’t striving for balance). I’m here to entertain you, I’m here to make you think and I’m here to ask you questions that might make you squirm. It’s good to be a blogger. It’s fantastic not having an editor. Just don’t mistake a blogger for a journalist.

 

SMCLA and Why it Matters a LOT that Bloggers Aren’t Journalists

12.19.12

Last night I was on a panel at for Social Media Club LA. It was called “Meet the Bloggers” and I thought it would be about the intersection of blogging and marketing but it went into a direction I hadn’t expected, which was just blogging.

Since I had my own agenda I tried to address the fact that bloggers aren’t journalists (I think the moderator disagreed with me). There were three other people waiting to speak so I didn’t get to quite finish my thought which was that bloggers are not journalists and therefore should be approached very differently.

This matters.

are bloggers journalists

 

Liz asks a really great question. What is the difference between a blogger and a journalist besides the medium?

Since bloggers aren’t journalists they don’t need three independent sources to verify a story. If you’re a publicist or a marketer this means that your pitches to have your expert chime in on news stories are much less likely to be relevant. If you’re trying to get coverage for a client on a blogger’s site it might be a better approach to have your client talk about the blogger rather than the news. You’ll have to actually read the blog and find out what the blogger writes about. It’s a little more legwork than pitching a reporter who has an assigned beat.

Solo bloggers don’t have editors or deadlines and therefore do not need story ideas with the same frequency as journalists. Every day I have a handful of emails that say STORY IDEA: blah blah blah. The reason I’m sure they say blah blah blah is because I’ve never actually needed a story idea and when I see Story Idea in the subject line I delete the emails. If you’re a publicist who loves to pitch story ideas it might be worth your while to email bloggers and ask them if they are ever looking for story ideas and if so what type. Then folks like me will say “no thank you” and bloggers who are looking for story ideas will be able to tell you how you can pitch them. It’s a little more work but if it keeps you out of spam folders it’s time well spent.

Journalists are not allowed to accept gifts, cash or swag. Bloggers might take everything. Well, this is up for debate and I hear plenty of stories about journalists who are rewarded generously and bloggers who refuse to accept swag but the reality is that if you’re pitching an old media journalist you can pitch them the story. If you’re pitching a blogger you can pitch them the “how does it benefit you” angle. This may include a swanky party, payment (sponsored posts or tweets), keeping the clothes/tech/device/accessories, junkets or simple affiliate opportunities. It’s entirely possible a blogger is interested in none of these things but it does differentiate them from Journalists and it’s important to note the difference.

There are as many ways to blog as there are bloggers and group sites can be newsy (think HuffPo) but the pitch has to change if you want to reach the bloggers. Liz, that is why I really wanted a room full of marketers and bloggers to understand that bloggers are not journalists.

 

Fact Checking: LA Beaches are to Remain Fun

02.9.12

Last night I saw a story on the KPCC Website entitled No fun: L.A. county beaches to levy $1,000 fine for throwing footballs and Frisbees. Because KPCC is my local NPR affiliate and a trusted news source I assumed this was true. KCAL which is a less trusted, but trusted site nonetheless ran a similar story.

I trusted these news sources and became agitated. Los Angeles does NOT need to lose any of it’s tourism dollars. We cannot afford this sort of debacle. So I picked up the phone.

Tony Bell who is with the LA County Board of Supervisors assures me that county is not banning football or Frisbee playing on the beach. The real story is that there was an existing law in place that banned all sorts of play on public beaches and that it was recently revised. Essentially this is a modification to an existing law wherein IF you are playing ball or frisbee on the beach and the ball is repeatedly hitting people on the head or presenting danger the Lifeguard can issue you a warning — and then, if you don’t stop, you could receive a fine of up to $100. — NOT $1000!

A local news outlet ran the story without fact checking and the public was led to believe that there would be a thousand dollar fine for kids playing football.

I called the County Offices, less as a blogger and more as a ticked off citizen, starting with “I’m pissed.” and I got the above explanation. Further there will be motions on Tuesday that will eliminate some of the poorly worded language so the public can be assured that the beaches are, in fact, for families.

In reality someone presenting that sort of hazard could probably also be arrested for battery.

It seems that this is much ado about not that nothing, and in the future I will be sure to fact check even when reputable journalists break the story. I cannot over emphasize how disappointing it is to have been the first person to call the city and ask for details.

On Tuesday there will be a motion to reword some of this.

The following is the text of the ordinances that seem to be confusing are below. Out of context they appear to be rather Draconian. In context they appear to be written in legalese, which as we know is not meant to be easily deciphered.

UPDATE: Here’s another blogger who gets it.

I’m All Talked Out

07.19.11

This morning started early. I was in a car at 3.20am to head over to Fox News so I could tape live for their show. I crawled back into bed at 5am and slept fitfully until almost 9.

I sent girls to the beach and took my son bowling. I worked in a few conference calls during the day. I’m working with a great brand that’s looking to connect with parenting bloggers so if I haven’t reached out to you yet, you know where to find me.

Tomorrow I’m going to fly. Really, I am. I’ll have some video for you tomorrow I hope.

I’m tired of talking about the Breastfeeding doll. It’s less creepy to me than a doll with a fake plastic nipple. Breastfeeding is normal. The halter is weird, but kids are weird. I remember the Barbie dream house coming with a chicken that laid eggs. The egg was a tic tac. I really wanted the dream house so I could eat the chicken’s tic tac egg. I also loved my brother’s Six Million Dollar Man doll. Whenever I look at the Intel logo I think of the chips in this stomach.

The wacky phone calls have begun. Hint to the nerds: when you call here pretending to be a reporter they typically start with this, “Hello this is [first name] [last name] from the [name of outlet] I was calling to [fact check/get a quote from you]. Is this a good time.” The phone calls don’t typically begin with, “I’m calling for Jessica, I’m with a small town newspaper.” And then you make up the name of a newspaper that doesn’t exist, ask me if Fox News is scripted and then you hang up. See, I’m helpful, I give tips.

I’m excited that I’ve joined the Moms Clean Airforce. I’d love to ask you to look at what you put into the environment and what you expect to take from it. There are many shades of green, and I’d like to move from lighter to a darker shade of green. Mindfulness is where it begins.

Tomorrow I’ll fly. Tomorrow blogging will be different.

Rest Assured I Made Sure The Danes Can Hate America

05.17.11

This morning I was talking to a group of Danish Journalists and I did a great job of making them feel superior. First off I wore a dark brown belt that was frayed along with a shirt that was too pink and too tight. I’d hoped that my jacket would cover the belly fat, but according to Sadistic Sandy (the personal trainer who I will introduce y’all to later) belly fat means that you’re eating too much, not that you’re dressing wrong.

Denmark is supposed to be the happiest country in the world. From this group I’d suspect that’s accurate. Everyone was tall thin, impossibly fashionable, blue eyed and smiley. I’d be happy hanging out with them all day.

Essentially I was there to give them a run down on what Mom Blogging looks like. I gave them an overview of the landscape, and a quick run down of how I started blogging. After a while we got our rhythm and I showed them some of the work I’ve done with Momversation. Naturally the first video on the page is all about Pre School Panic. There was no sound so I had to tell them about how a New York City mom was suing her daughter’s preschool for the $19,000 tuition because she didn’t feel like her daughter had been academically prepared for the right schools.

They snickered.

And then I stood there and I thought about the fact that Americans will pay a year’s salary for school and then turn around and sue. We sue for pretty much everything. I had to giggle too, but I also had to explain to them that New York is a very expensive place to live…. and then someone asked me where I fell in that discussion.

Well, I kind of understand… and then I realized that I sound ridiculous.

And then someone asked me about politics and where my blog might be on the spectrum and I explained to them that everyone hates me because I want marijuana legal and moms to raise their own kids. And then there was a groan from one of the women. So now I’m explaining to them that in America women don’t get a year of maternity leave, that it’s unusual for a man to take more than a few days off of work and that planning a family here requires planning because we don’t support families….  and oh how they turned on me.

But they were beautiful and they were happy and Denmark doesn’t have personal bloggers yet but I suspect that they will soon. I did my part. I made sure those journos know the facts. Americans like to sue people,Americans like to get involved with other people’s parenting, and Americans like pot, but not enough to make it legal.

I’m like an Ambassador.