Dear Elle Singapore,
I am writing this letter in response to the opinion piece, 'blogged down' by Aimee Chan featured in your August issue. The writer was asked if she felt threatened in her job as a writer with the advent of blogs, and she details her subsequent ruminations on the issue in the opinion piece.
To quote from the article,
"I was shocked - and offended. I have never considered myself in the same vein, as, ahem, bloggers. I have been trained with years of industry experience. I have academic credentials and have pounded pavements unearthing the next scoop. Is that really the same as a person who types out a few inane thoughts and then posts them on the Internet?"
Let me first say, I love magazines. I started my love affair with magazines even before I was a teen, starting from teen titles, then quickly moving on to the glossies and other magazines. I refuse to get a kindle, read magazines, books or newspapers on any electronic device, no matter how convenient anyone tells me it is. The joy and excitement of seeing a fresh issue of a good magazine on the newsstand, and then flipping through it is always amazing.
However, having stated my love for print, I personally, also being an amateur blogger, felt the writer's condescending tone in the article was unnecessary and uncalled for. While I agree that bloggers are not interchangeable with trained, seasoned journalists, that does not make their personal opinions any less valid.
A great example of this is the adolescent blogger, Tavi Gevinson. Her passionate critique and honest opinions on the fashion industry made her stand out, and perhaps, was what is missing in the industry. Over time, Tavi has slowly moved away from writing about fashion solely, into pop culture, feminism and many issues that I would consider far from simply inane thoughts.
Fashion is subjective. Is it still right then, to assume that journalists and critics are the only experts in their field?
Furthermore, to call all bloggers writing as inane and categorizing all bloggers in the same way is simply unfair. Just like in traditional media, where there are a myriad of media sources, some considered more reliable and trusted, some known to have certain political or social leanings, and so on, this applies to the online media as well.
Secondly, the writer says,
"But it's a fine line between the joy of browsing through stuff you're interested in and then reading what's actually just an advertisement in the form of editorial".
She concludes the reason for the death of a blog with saying,
"So once a blogger becomes professional - getting paid to go on and on about their interests - no one wants to read the blog anymore".
It's interesting to note that the writer describes fashion blogs as reading "an advertisement in the form of editorial", because, isn't that in fact what many fashion magazines do?
Magazines are a business as well, and a huge portion of that business revenue comes from advertising.
That advertising revenue wields a great amount of influence and power on editorial in magazines. Case in point, in an article by Lynn Barber for The Observer, Barber goes behind the scenes at Vogue UK. The theme for that particular shoot was inspired by paintings. The problem with it was: Chanel and Dior did not have any clothes that fit with the theme but both were big advertisers. This is a problem that is commonplace in many magazines, not just in photo shoots, but product features and other features of a magazine.
On the flip slide, Rookie, the online magazine started by Tavi, does sponsored content that does not alter editorial content, but with a logo at the bottom of the post to indicate the sponsor.
Many fashion blogs are also transparent. For example, Manrepeller, the blog mentioned by the Editor-In-Chief in her Editor's Note, is unabashed in revealing how, and how much money she makes off her blog.
According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, Elle US’s single-copy sales have fallen about 20% for the first half of 2012. Circulation figures suggest the storm clouds with the embrace of all things digital have not yet cleared.
The shift towards the digital requires more than the skills in traditional journalism training, but also the skills to market their own content, and effectively engage an audience online. Yes, seasoned journalists do rack up “years of industry experience” through the course of their careers. However, we all gain experience in different ways, both personal and professional, which shape our opinions and worldviews.
Derek Blasberg, Editor at large of Harper’s Bazaar, V and V Man, and blogger at Mr Blasberg, embodies a hybrid kind of online journalism. He has been able to straddle the “traditional” journalist and blogger roles.
“Five years ago, if someone called me a blogger I would have probably scoffed and been offended. But things have changed and it’s a digital world now. If someone calls me a blogger today? I’m flattered and I feel relevant,” he said.
Perhaps, it’s time to consider bloggers not in the same vein as journalists, but as an integral part of the industry, working not separately, but hand in hand with journalists. Tell that to the next party guest with the same question!