11 Jul 2012, Comments (5)

I don’t know much about blogs but I know what I like

Author: Helen

It’s bash the bloggers season again, I see. There have been several “Oh, how about those bloggers!!” articles in my favoured dead-tree daily lately. I guess the recent carnage in the Fairfax group and promise of carnage-to-come in the News Ltd group has prompted a fresh outbreak of insecurity and defensiveness in journos and trollumnists alike. We’ve had the usual slew of commentators making the incorrect assumption that blogging equals “citizen journalism” and complaining that bloggers want to replace journalists. NO. Just… for the ten thousandth time… NO.

Most bloggers are essayists, or diarists, not citizen journalists. Sometimes we write about the news. In fact, those of us who write about things we see in the news generally include links – something the AGE and Herald Sun are just beginning to learn to do – which give many more hits to their journos’ columns than they would otherwise get. (If the “citizen journo” myth has any merit it would be that many bloggers are filling in the details on local events which mainstream news outlets only skim over, or providing an alternative view on material easily obtainable from primary sources –press releases online, the Gonski report– which reward discussion or which haven’t been well served by the media.)

Christine Croyden writes in the SMH:

I’M VISITING Paris, where newspapers and books written in English are expensive and can be hard to locate, so I’ve taken to reading a wide range of blogs. I find most are written by people who give expansive accounts of their dealings with the world, yet are not particularly attentive to the world’s responses.

Oh, you just know this is going to go well.

The headline of the article puts two stonkin’ great cliches in one line: “I blog, therefore I am. Life in modern times”. Charmian Clift, eat your heart out. But perhaps we can blame a sub editor for this, if there are any left, so we’ll pay that one for now.

”Look at me, let me tell you what I like, where I’m going, what I think about anything and everything in the world, what I had for breakfast and how fascinating I am” is the gist of most.

And that tells you everything you need to know: it’s another anti-blogging article of type 2663a/C, “I haven’t actually done much blog reading, but I feel knowledgeable enough to write a trollumn for the SMH telling them what numpties they are.” Have we been here before? Yes, we have! With all the financial problems besetting Fairfax, couldn’t they just pick one example of type 2663a/C and republish it every three months?

Croyden’s critique is rather amusing in the light of the article itself which is a feast of the very I – statements about her own fascinating trivia which she complains about in the writing of others. “I’m visiting Paris”. “I’ve taken to reading a wide range of blogs”. “I recently found myself uploading photos onto Facebook”. “I’m of a certain age and not right up with every new thing… I am mother to three young adult children…” et cetera. (Can you handle the excitement?) Yairs, Croyden is not narcissistic for publishing all this trivia because… because… well, because she is a playwright, as opposed to a mere desk jockey, which means she is allowed to talk about her trivia in this manner. Legitimately. And Shut Up, you there up the back.

(Ms Croyden, since you asked, “Do I want people to know I’m away?” when you post on Facebook? No. You don’t. Upload the photos when you get back. This has been a public service announcement. Also: part of your article is conflating Facebook with blogging. They are not the same thing.)

Thing is, there are plenty of writers out there who aren’t snobbish about blogs. The literary critics, expert makers, polymorphous polymaths, fiction writers, environmentalists, contrarians, academicsso many academicsscientists and writers on subjects like feminism on which mainstream journalism/commentariat just seems to spin its wheels. As for the personal (or personal-political) bloggers like me, we’re just doing it to learn how to write. Some more successfully than others, but the blogosphere is much more than a bunch of ninnies wittering about nothing.

Truly, some blogs offer fresh social and political opinions, some do a decent theatre or restaurant review, and there are a few specific interest blogs of value. But these are far outnumbered by the ”look at me” variety.

Most people are familiar with the adage that ”everyone has one novel in them” or the latest, and even sillier idea, that anybody can write, as demonstrated by the thousands of bloggers who give it a red-hot go every day. So why discourage them? After all, the only way to improve writing is to keep at it. But in most cases, although style may improve, it doesn’t mean everyone can become some sort of contemporary seer.

Thanks, Captain Obvious. But I see from this interview at Australian Stage that Croyden worked as a nurse and midwife for 10 years before getting a professional writing gig.

AS: So how/when did you get started as a writer?
CC: I’ve always written – I’d rather write down how I feel and what I think of something than talk about it any day. My first short story was published in 1998 but I’d spent many years writing and crafting short stories prior to that and still love the form. I read a lot of short stories.

So at one point, Croyden herself was an amateur, a writer for the sheer hell of it, “writ(ing) down how I feel”. But someone else doing it on the Web is “narcissistic”. I imagine at some point someone in the writing world gave this aspiring writer a break. I wonder whether anyone sneered at her and told her to stick to changing catheters. It’s a shame she can’t do any better than snipe and carp at other aspiring writers (and many others that are fully fledged) because they publish online.

My wish is that before bloggers decide to post another word, they read a few good books, think about what it is they want to say, wonder for a while about how often it’s been said before, and, once they realise it’s been said in many more insightful, well-written and interesting ways on numerous occasions they go to bed and forget about “their blog”.

You would have to have a pretty high opinion of your own talents to write something so dismissive, belittling and downright patronising, especially having been on the other side of the fence yourself.

But is the article even sincere? In a final egregious example of “it’s all right for me but not for them”, in googling information for this post, I found she runs a blog herself, and has done so since 2008. And here’s an instance of her commenting on an activist blog. That sheds a different light on the “I’ve just noticed this thing called blogging and I’m not really up with all this newfangled internet stuff but it seems loopy to me” boilerplate. It appears it’s not just mean and ungenerous, it seems like a bit of a performance as well. Maybe some anti-blogger screeds on the mainstream media sites are written to order and purchased by the yard. Maybe the editor just says “Hey, get me another type 2663a/C, thanks.”

Comments (5) »

  • Kath Lockett says:

    Excellently examined, Helen.

    Love the phrase ‘trollumnists’. Is her snide denigration of bloggers something that ungenerous but ‘successful’ writers think that they have to do in this climate?

  • Helen says:

    I’m not sure who invented the word Trollumnist Kath, but it does seem to hit the spot with a certain type of opinion piece, doesn’t it?

  • Excellent piece Helen. I suspect the cry of the trollumnists (yes excellent word) will grow louder as old media attempts to reshape itself. Why should they pay for fluff pieces like this, when so much better is on the web for free? It’s not so much an argument, as a death rattle.

    A noted Croyden’s blog is rather devoid of content. Most likely it was the obligatory blog created by the publisher when her book came out. There’s no actual writing in it. No wonder she doesn’t get blogging!

  • Mindy says:

    I think she will find that bloggers aren’t as silly as she seems to believe and the bits she forgot to mention will find their way out. Which will only make her look bad and under researched and spouting her own uninformed opinion. Heh.

  • Jess says:

    But I see that her blog is a really poor example and no-one reads it. So obviously she can make the comments she does with impunity!
    Also enjoy the fact that she seems to have no idea that people blog for a number of different reasons and rarely is that reason “because I think I am the same as a salaried staff writer for a newspaper”. I have four blogs. Each serves a different purpose entirely. None of them make me think I am a journalist…

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