Monday, November 22, 2010

Blogging - is it journalism?

Accidentally, as I was following up on other topics, I found that there is a wonderful drama playing out in the Norwegian blogosphere, complete with a sobbing bride, nasty, greybearded men and a handsome football-player. OK, the football-player has very little to do with it, but he's a very good-looking accessory.

So, what happened here?

A young and beautiful woman works part-time as a journalist in an online paper, and is fashion editor and co-owner of an online magasine. At the same time she is making money on her fashion/lifestyle weblog: Fotballfrue - football wife (yeah, that's where the handsome man comes in).

So, somebody reads that she has income from a lot of different sources, and they question her ethics (and they do it while she is on a honeymoon, how rude!) in an article about fashion weblogs.

There are a lot of bloggers who have very high hit numbers, and use this commercially. Fashion blogging is "in" at the moment, and so the companies pay the young and the beautiful to let others know what they wear and use. The principle is nothing new, it's pretty much the same as sponsoring skaters while they were the "cool", or athletes, for that matter. Ohh, again, almost a reference to the handsome husband who never really enters the story!

Anyway: Some fashion bloggers do it to make money, some do it to create a name for themselves, to build their street cred. However, being a good fashion blogger takes a lot of money, in order to keep up their fresh front they need to be seen in the most interesting, newes and fanciest outfits available - and what is better than getting paid to do this, alternatively getting the products directly and free from the producers?

So far so good. But what if you are trying to build not just street cred, but actually become a journalist and an editor of a magasine? What should the smart fashion blogger do? Oh, and by the way, "journalist" isn't a title you get by getting an education and a license, like "medical doctor" or "lawyer," it's something you become if you practice journalism. So if you don't practice journalism, you are not a journalist, no matter how much education you have.

The whole issue with the football wife isn't really that she writes on order for companies. The issue is that she at the same time calls herself a journalist and an editor. She acts as a marketing officer, without making that obvious in the different posts, while also trying to build the trust and reputation she needs in order to be taken seriously as a journalist. And when she is criticised she claims that blogging isn't journalism, and so she can do what she likes.

She is, in a way, right. On "fotballfrue" she is her own editor, owner and writer. As long as she doesn't harass anybody, she can write what she likes. If her business strategy is to promote objects or trends for whoever pays her (are those fake louboutins, or real?) then she can do that to her heart's content on her blog. She will gain a lot of treet cred among other fashion bloggers, and probably among her followers as well. And she is right, her blog isn't journalism.

Does that mean blogging isn't journalism? No, because if she wrote according to the standards of journalism, her blog would be journalism. Again, journalism is a practice, not a license or a stamp put on only some organisations.

Back to the drama.

The pretty young lady is a part-time stand-in for Side2.no. So she is, at best, part-time freelancing as a journalist. It's not really anybody's business how she spends her time when she's not working for them, and Side2.no can stop using her when ever they like.

And that's what really should come out of this story: she doesn't have a job, she has a pretty face, a fashion blog, and ambitions to become an editor. In a case like that, what is the smart strategy?

I find myself firmly on the side of the grey-bearded evil, which isn't so odd, since I am turning pretty grey as well. She should clean up her blogging act, and stop selling her opinions to the highest bidder. People who write commercials for pay are not welcome in the journalism union in Norway, and when journalists change jobs and go into marketing, they need to swap unions. It's how it goes. If she wants to go that way, she needs to adjust to the standards, or she will have no journalistic credibility.

However... she might not want or need it. She's young, she's pretty, and people are paying her to wear beautiful clothes. Why should she worry about journalism? But then I'd recommend that she removes the "journalist" title from her webpage. If you don't practice journalism, you aren't a journalist. If you claim you are, you will be criticised. I am sorry, really, and it's horrible that people are letting you know this while you're on your honey-moon, but that's how it is.

Oh, and have a wonderful time. Your life looks like a slice of marketing heaven.

----
Corrected due to Undre's comment, thanks.

7 comments:

Klepsacovic said...

Blogging is a format. It's like TV or a newspaper or a book. It's just a way to communicate. So in a way your question isn't asking the right question. It would be like asking if a newspaper is journalism, and we can answer "well no, you're pointing at the ad section." So maybe that's the answer here: "no, you're pointing at the ad section".

Undre said...

Just a short comment:

I don't think it is correct that she is freelancing for e24.no. She says side2.no and Femelle.no in her blog.

Jonha Ducayag Revesencio said...

I understand just how the line between between and journalism is thinning. Well I feel for you that the fashion blogger shouldn't use her journalism credentials to sell but unfortunately, that's how things goes now. The same is true with celebrities, people start to think they really know about the product they endorse just because they have pretty face like telling everyone about health topics when they don't even have medical degrees. Though I support aggressive marketing, I do not support shrewd marketing.

Torill said...

Undre, you're right. She is part-timing it for Side2.no. Thanks, error fixed.

Torill said...

Klepsacovic: I partly agree with you, only I'll say that like journalism, blogging is a practice. A blog is a format, and it can contain a lot of different practices. Blogging is a practice, like writing. What you blog or what you write can be a lot of different things. And yes, she's writing the ad-section version of blogs.

Torill said...

Jonha: To understand the argument fully, you should know that she in her own weblog post frequently refers to Norwegian definitions of journalism, which include tekstreklameplakaten, where particularly points 7, 9 and 11 are relevant. According to this sponsors are not to have influence on the journalistic product, free-lancers have a duty to be upfront about potential commercial interests connected to their material, and journalists are to be careful about participating in non-journalistic activities connected to their position as a journalist. So it's pretty clear: If she is a journalist working for Side2.no, which is an online fashion and health magasine, she really shouldn't do this.

But she is just a part-time go-to, and as such she has a bit more leeway, and as you point out, fashion bloggers sell their writing and photo-shopping skills, as well as their beauty. I don't have a problem with that. However: a professional should not be surprised she's criticised for it. It is pretty clearly spelled out what she is expected to do if she considers herself a journalist.

Fusion said...

Torill,

This isn't really on topic. I'm more of a lurker in the blogging community, I read blogs without ever commenting. In fact, this is my first comment. I found your blog through Klepsacovic's blog, and though I do not normally stray from WoW blogs, I read your blog every time you update it.

I'm also from the US, and I love reading blogs from other parts of the world that are in English.

To my point. I just wanted to say thank you for your blog and the posts that you do make, you have a great journal here and please keep it up! I also really enjoyed your post on the "pink" blogger, and the translations for those of us that speak only English, thanks!